Serious rope work: tug-of-war pulls its weight against other team sports

27 September 2017 - 12:12 By EMMA JORDAN
Danette Kapp competes in the championships in England.
Danette Kapp competes in the championships in England.
Image: Supplied

Tug-of-war is one of the oldest sports in the world, one that's been played for thousands of years. Artwork in a 4,000-year-old tomb in Sakkara, Egypt, shows teams of three men pitted with ropes against one another.

The sport is now played by more than 70 countries - 13 countries in Africa have national teams.

The South African teams were in England last week to take part in the Tug-of-War International Federation Outdoor Championships. South Africa won gold in the ladies junior 480kg competition, and the under-23 ladies team came sixth in the 500kg competition. The junior men won silver in the 560kg competition, behind Switzerland and won bronze in the under-23 men's competition.

It's a real team sport.
If someone drops their shoulder or doesn't pull their weight right it lets down the whole team

Danette Kapp competed in the U-23 and senior team in the UK and at the Prestige Competition in George last month.

"There's no other sport like it," she said. "It's a real team sport. If someone drops their shoulder or doesn't pull their weight right it lets down the whole team. You have to be very focused and constantly work together."

Andre Botha, vice-president of the South Africa Tug-of-War Federation, said 300 South African teams compete at the Youth Championships each March. This year 77 teams participated at the Prestige Competition, including the Zimbabwe national team.

Daniel Mahwadu, the captain of Zimbabwe, said his dream is to compete at international level.

"I started playing tug-of-war in 2007. It keeps me fit and healthy. We train four times a week and take part in national league games."

For Lourens du Plessis, an athlete with the Pretoria Tug-of-War Club, it's a sport that can be played throughout life.

''You can do it until you step into the grave," he said.

Botha said there's a lot of technique involved with the rope work. "The athletes need to pull hard. They get tired quickly if they're not fit. It takes resilience and endurance. It's got all the guts and the glory of rugby without the injury - but there's still the dirt and the macho element, even for the girls."

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