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Aug/ Sept 2009

8 good reasons to stock darts

Growth, expansion, and renewed interest are welcome words in the current economic climate. These descriptions all apply to the darts market, say some of the main suppliers. But there are also several other reasons why it makes good business sense to stock darts. Reports PHUMLANI DUBE

Darts might not be the most athletic sport, yet it has been rumoured that it could become one of the sporting codes contested in the next Olympics. But, regardless of wether you consider it to be a sport or just a game, darts is fun. And from a business perspective the game of arrows has proved to be a real money-spinner. There are therefore many good reasons for stocking darts. For example:

1 “One of the good reasons to stock darts is that it takes up very little space in the store. It therefore offers high value goods in a very small space,” says Nigel Prout of Opal Sports, distributor of Unicorn Darts. It is easy to merchandise and maintain a well-stocked darts department even in a small store, adds Kevin de Wet of De Wet Sports.

2 “When someone buys darts they replace the shaft and the flights after some time and you therefore get sales all the time,” Prout continues. When people buy darts you know they are going to return to your store all the time — and hopefully they will be encouraged to buy other items as well.”

3 Prout says darts is also a great form of entertainment for the whole family in which anybody can partake in, no matter how young or old, fit or unfit, they are. “Take the Springbok rugby team — they have all played darts, but darts players have not all played rugby.”

Andrew Wentzel of WET Sports Importers, suppliers of Datadarts, does however caution that it is not recommended that children play darts unsupervised. “Kids can hurt themselves, so yes, darts is a family game, but under supervision.”

4 Darts is a non-seasonal sport. Darts products are very popular during the holiday time when other sports products are not in such high demand, remarks Kevin De Wet of De Wet Sports, distributor of Elkadarts.

5 Darts is like fresh meat from a business point of view, says Wentzel. “It is a regular seller and you can make a decent margin with darts products.”

6 The sport is expanding, with more and more people becoming interested in playing darts — as is evidenced by the number of new clubs that are being started. Some of the clubs in places like the Western Cape, for example, follow the system in England where players have professional competitions where they play for money, says Wentzel.

Charles Lospers, who twice won thousands of Rands in the televised PDC SA Open Championships and thereby qualified to play in the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championships in England, is especially active in these competitions.

“The fact that you can go and play darts and win money adds further attraction to the game,” says Wentzel, one of the sporsors. “Even if you only win R1 000, it’s not bad for a game of darts, which used to be only played for recreation.”

LGB Distributors, suppliers of Harrows, also sponsor some league teams and clubs. “We do joint sponsorships with league players,” says Colin Farrer.

7 Darts is set to grow even more now that it has become a TV spectator sport. De Wet attributes the tremendous growth in interest in darts to the television exposure that it gets of late ,which has made many international dart players household names.

The annual PDC SA Open held at Emperor’s Palace, sponsored by Unicorn, attracts some of the world’s top players to SA.

“TV coverage of international tournaments on DSTV has helped a great deal to grow interest. There are new clubs starting regularly.”

8 You also have to be good at maths to play darts, therefore besides the entertainment value, the sport is also very educational, concludes Prout.

Indeed a far cry from the days when darts was considered to be a pub game and adult entertainment!


Aug/Sept 2009

Boots to float in

Not so long ago, all team boots consisted of heavy, black leather uppers, long, cumbersome laces and limited stud configurations. Today, team boots not only look good enough to make a fashion statement, but are also designed to ensure player safety and comfort. FANIE HEYNS takes a look at how team boots have evolved

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" is a well-known sports quotation attributed to the legendary boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali. During a previous dispensation, the heavy sport shoes and boots made even the most athletic sportsman look like an overweight bull moving through a swamp, rather than a butterfly floating past a bewildered opponent.

Peter Whipp, local distributor of Mitre and a former Springbok-centre who featured in 8 tests between 1974 and 1980, remembers the rugby boots during his playing career: "In those days they were heavier as they used a lot more leather. The sole units were also not as sophisticated as they are now," he says.

"The synthetic uppers were not of the quality we have currently and stretching became a problem after 4 or 5 matches. Anatomically, the boots were not as well developed as they are presently.

"Although I did not play soccer, the soccer boots evolved in a similar fashion to those used in rugby."

In the early days, football boots weighed approximately 500g when dry, and twice as much when wet. When manufacturers became aware that the boot was only in contact with the ball for about 10% of the game, they developed less heavy boots. Today’s team boots weigh less than 250g and have very few features that resemble the staid black numbers of a few years ago.

Initially, it was wrongly assumed that overloading of the weight-bearing foot was the primary cause of most injuries. Brett Bellinger of Puma South Africa alludes to this when he says that nowadays the design elements of a boot play an important role in the prevention of injury.

Typically, but not in all cases, boots that provide more protection are slightly heavier and more supportive. Performance boots are lighter and less supportive.

Factors such as the actual last on which the boot is made, the upper, the lacing system, stud configuration, and outsole material, all affect performance and protection of the foot, knee and ligaments. Different ratios and combinations of these will determine the main overriding benefit of the boot.

Preventing injuries

The danger of incorrect stud configurations, unsuitable for a specific playing field, has been the subject of many sport injury studies.

Firm ground boots in soft muddy conditions would lead to insufficient traction. Conversely, soft ground boots on a hard surface would also lead to traction problems as the boots would not be able to gain a firm footing on the hard surface. Aluminium studs on hard grounds exert pressure, rubber studs on soft grounds provide no grip.

But, while it is important to buy a boot that is specifically designed and custom-made for a very peculiar terrain, Whipp points out that not everybody can afford more than one pair of boots, though.

The ideal multi-task boot is probably a well-designed blade, which can be used on all surfaces.

Mitre has used the speed stud system very effectively in soccer and rugby, which not only improves drive off the ground, but also spreads the pressure over a wider area, both in screw-in and multi-stud units, says Whipp.

The Mitre speed stud system is well established, with proven advantages over regular conical stud configurations, providing up to 40% improved drive and acceleration, as well as greater comfort and flexibility both on screw in and multi-stud units, says Whipp.

In rugby, a robust sport where sharp changes in direction are an integral part of the game, stud design is essential in preventing injuries, believes Shaun Hansen of adidas SA. He says it is imperative that forwards have a supportive base with stud configurations that allow for maximum traction and stability – scrums that collapse can result in major neck injuries.

"It is also important that the design elements enhance support in both the lateral and medial aspects of the shoe to prevent injury to the ankle region," he says.

Boot design for safety

Adidas has not concentrated solely on the design of the boot in preventing injuries. One of the unique innovations is the use of Traxion — an outsole lug providing maximum grip in all directions, on any surface, without excessive pressure points on the foot. The tapered shape provides excellent ground penetration, without the typical "stud pressure" that football boots place on the foot. The wide, narrow profile of Traxion lugs grips without slippage, making it ideal in any outdoor sport requiring maximum outsole grip, such as rugby.

Cushioning is probably the most important aspect when it comes to prevention of injuries, adds Justin Maier, Nike SA’s Footwear Merchandising Manager. "Two of Nike’s statement boots, the Air Zoom Total 90 111 and the Nike Air Legend, both have Zoom Air cushioning. Air is probably one of the best cushioning systems, since it always returns to its original form."

Player comfort

The design of a boot can also enhance ball control. In soccer, side and hidden lacings improve the ball strike area, says Whipp, and the use of different materials on the forefoot by Mitre, improves ball control off the boot face.

Darryl Kroll of Umbro SA agrees that the design of a football boot not only ensures protection from injury – which is of paramount importance – but that the design can improve play and comfort.

Umbro therefore focuses on four principles when designing their soccer boots — comfort, durability, aesthetics and affordability.

"Umbro designers continue to set the benchmark for all others to follow with regards to innovation and technical football boot design," he says. "Every year, Umbro releases a boot that inspires and excites the world of football."

And this year is no exception. "The X-boot is the pinnacle of boot design," he says. It is used by the likes of Michael Owen (Real Madrid and England), Alan Shearer (Newcastle United and former England football captain), Deco, Michael Salgado and Luis Garcia (Real Madrid star).

The technology used, says Kroll, "is immense" and has been developed to improve the game. For instance:

  • There is a medial strike area to the front of the foot that enhances control and optimum grip in all weather conditions.

  • Ceramic K-leather is used for higher abrasion resistance and reduced water intake.

  • Then there is the X-static 99% pure silver fibre technology in the tongue and inlay sole that provides the most efficient heat and moisture control system ever developed, explains Kroll.

  • The eXo Skeleton heel counter withstands high impact shock to provide excellent protection and medial and lateral stability support.

  • The two premier boots in Umbro’s 2005-range are the X-boot and the X Lite.

    Kroll says part of the X-boot’s excellence, is the wishbone-technology, which has been owned and refined by Umbro. The wishbone itself is a thermo polyurethane (TPU) shank. The TPU-shank gives flexibility and torsion ability between the front part of the foot and the rear foot, as well as increased stability for the player.

    The system allows natural rotation between the rear foot and the forefoot, whilst supporting the middle part of the foot.

    Flex in the middle of the shoe is negative, to correct foot strike and by having the wishbone shank, this is reduced dramatically.

    The X Lite boot incorporates all the X-boot technology in an extremely lightweight boot with an upper made from ultra light Japanese Teijin microfibre. This microfibre provides for a high level of ball feel and responsiveness to the foot. The boot weighs in at an impressive 140g and incorporates the Umbro IAS system (Impact Absorption System) for optimum responsive cushioning.

    Performance & protection

    Puma boots are designed for both performance and protection, says Brett Bellinger. The main feature of the new Puma range will be the release of the King Exec Boot in October. The boot’s design is based on a sprinter’s spike shoe, and has a more natural foot shape than the traditional boot.

    The boots provide comfort through pressure reduction in key areas, while transforming energy into action.

    The laces of the Puma-boot have been positioned off-centre to increase the strike zone of the foot on the ball. The upper material is of premium quality full grain leather, ensuring a snug fit and limited stretch.

    The outsole features new anatomically placed cleats, as well as flex grooves to support natural foot movement, and it spreads pressure more evenly.

    Something for all

    The new Olympic team boot range is very competitive in terms of price, as well as styling.

    "We have endeavoured to keep the range as up to date as possible with regard to current trends and customer demands," says Olympic International brand manager Miles O’Brien. "In doing this, we have been able to offer a product that would suit the more traditional player, as well as someone looking for more modern styling."

    The range itself caters for all types of playing conditions, from traditional screw-in (8 and 6 stud) styles to multi-stud and fashionable blade sole styles.

    "Olympic has always had a good value driven junior range and this season is no different, with both blade and multi-stud boots included," says O’Brien.

    The hockey range is very well represented, with boots for all types of natural and synthetic playing surfaces catered for.

    "Even though we have managed to keep our product competitively priced, we have still managed to raise our quality standard as high as possible. A big drive this season and going forward, is to make our product more visible in terms of styling, colour options and branding."

    Cushioning the foot

    All Nike’s statement products have Poron (soft compound) inserts in the sockliners, which assists with the cushioning of the foot, says Maier.

    They have three performance silo’s – Mercurial, Total 90 and Tiempo – for three different type of athletes. Each of them has a completely different design, which provides for the different consumer needs and offers different benefits.

    The Mercurial Vapor is a lightweight boot (a mere 196g) designed for speed and acceleration. The upper is made of a lightweight material called NikeSkin, an ultra-thin material that conforms to the natural curvatures of the foot, that has a super soft feel.

    The Air Zoom Total 90 111 is designed for the player who is on the go for the full 90 minutes of a game and needs the most comfortable shoe during this time. It is made from a soft, supple ultra-lightweight KNG-100 material that enhances ball feel and foot comfort.

    It has an asymmetrical, integrated lacing system, which eliminates internal layers to provide optimal fit and touch. The midsole is a Nike injected phylon sole, which provides optimal comfort and great stud pressure reduction.

    The Nike Air Legend has been designed for the player who likes to create the play and has the touch. Made of extremely soft leather, it is built on a new contoured last, and features an external heel counter that provides ultimate fit and comfort. The mid-sole has visible Zoom Air in the innersole board and a hi-tech molded sockliner for greater shoe comfort. The innovative new outsole features a glass fiber shank and toe for lightweight rigidity.

    Boot democracy

    Gilbert believes in boot-democracy – a boot designed and produced BY the players FOR the players, says Storm Ackerman. Their rugby range features a solid sole unit that is not as flexible as the soccer versions, and results in greater support, as well as surer footing for players who rely on the boots for grip and forward thrust, while scrumming, stepping and tackling. A blade caters for a harder, firmer surface, while the studded option is more suitable for a lush, sometimes wet, surface.

    There is another category — a tight forward may prefer an eight-stud-option, while a back might opt for a six-studded boot.

    Ackerman says the Gilbert rugby boots have uppers made from the very best that technology has to offer, ensuring comfort and protection from various elements that players may encounter.

    Interchangeable insoles

    One of the innovations for the 2005-series of adidas boots would be the use of the X Traxion clip-in-system for adaptable grip on soft terrain. Adidas will also use interchangeable fusion frame insoles for customised performance.

    The adidas boot uppers are designed with a split outsole for optimised weight and flexibility. The brand uses a high abrasion textile with low water absorption. An innovative lace cover is also used for optimal fit and increased kicking area.

    Adidas will use blown K-leather for protection and good ball feel, as well as full grain leather for comfort and soft feel.

    Adidas has also introduced Predator technology for more power, swerve and ball control. Strategically positioned rubber vamps are placed on the uppers, which allow for better ball adhesion to provide more control, swerve, power and accuracy.


    August 2005

    Eyewear = eye protection

    It is very important to look after one’s eyes. Everyone knows that — and therefore there is a growing demand for activity-specific eyewear amongst sport and outdoor enthusiasts. However, with so many different sunglasses on the market and each one promising to be the best of the best, the question is: which eyewear should a retailer stock to meet the needs of his customers? By CARIN DU TOIT

    Nowadays, there are lenses for every conceivable light condition and environmental factor, and a frame to go with each possible lens. It is near impossible to stock each one. Thus, focus on the eyewear that goes with the equipment or apparel you already stock — after all, the equipment already attracts a customer who participates in a certain sport.

    The first step is identifying which sport and what dangers the sport presents with regards to one’s eyes.

    In the active outdoor and sporting environment protection against eye injuries as well as environmental factors needs to be considered, advises Prof Jannie Ferreira of the Academy of Sports Vision, Department of Optometry, RAU in an online article Selecting Protective Eyewear for Sport.

    Thus, by identifying the athlete’s exposure to the sun, wind, dust, or other environmental factors that might affect the eyes and interfere with performance, it will be easier to identify what type of lens, coating and other special frame requirements the athlete needs.

    Ultra violet radiation

    An absolute must for all eyewear is UV protection. UV (ultra violet) radiation is the spectrum of invisible light between 286 and 400 nanometre (nm). Its source is not only the sun, but also fluorescent light, xenon arc lamps and other sources of light.

    UV is divided into three segments: UVA (320 – 400nm), UVB (286 – 320nm) and UVC (below 286nm). The cornea can filter out UV radiation below 300 nm. Constant exposure to UV radiation of 300 – 400nm could result in photochemical eye damage, which over time could result in the development of brown or sunshine cataracts (keratitis) and other eye health problems. It is estimated that 10% of all cataracts are caused by UVA and UVB exposure.

  • UVA is the least harmful and most commonly found type of UV light, because it has the least energy. UVA light is often called black light. Most phototherapy and tanning booths use UVA lamps.

  • UVB is the most destructive form of UV light, because it has enough energy to damage tissues, but not enough to be completely absorbed by the atmosphere. Most UVB light is blocked by the atmosphere, but a small change in the ozone layer could dramatically increase the danger of skin cancer, which UVB is known to cause. Combined with cold wind and snow, UVB has the potential to cause snow blindness (photokeratitis), a temporary but painful problem in the cornea of the eye, lasting 12 to 48 hours. There is some research that suggests that daily exposure to UVB in very bright sunlight over a period of many years may cause a gradual clouding of the lens of the eye, however, not everyone agrees on this.

  • UVC, the shortest wavelength of the UV rays, is almost completely absorbed in air within a few hundred meters.

  • Lens technology

    One hears a lot about polarization and that it is good to have, but what is it and what does it do?

    When you rotate a pair of polarizing sunglasses, you will find that they cut glare better in some positions than others. This is because when light reflects from water, asphalt, or other non-metallic surfaces, it becomes polarized — where the reflected light is usually vibrating more in one direction than in others. Horizontal surfaces reflect light that vibrates horizontally, and, vice versa. Polarizing lenses absorb the horizontally orientated glare, because the polarizers in the lens are vertically orientated. Polarization in a lens lets through light that is vibrating in one direction and absorbs light that is vibrating in all other directions, thus one sees a clear image.

    Polycarbonate lenses are plastic lenses that are strong and impact resistant. Not only are these lenses thinner and weigh lighter than traditional plastic lenses, they have built in UV protection properties and are scratch resistant.

    Less of the polycarbonate material is needed to provide the same amount of visual correction that a traditional lens offers. Thus, the polycarbonate lens is thinner and lighter in weight.

    Polycarbonate lenses are impact resistant because they are flexible and gives slightly under pressure without breaking. These lenses are made out of the same material as bullet-proof glass.

    When looking at the lens colour, it is useful to remember that the darker the tint, the more light it absorbs. A photochromic coating is often used for cycling or running eyewear, where one moves between shadows and the outdoor light is unpredictable.

    The alternative to a photochromic coating is keeping multiple sunglasses for different light conditions, or to have interchangeable lenses that can be changed with the light.

    Sports eyewear does not only protect the eyes from harmful elements, but they also enhance the sportsman’s ability to do the sport. Certain lenses can enhance certain colours, depending on the colour of the lens, for example teal lenses block out most colours and enhance yellow, which makes it perfect for a sport such as tennis, where one needs to concentrate on the yellow ball and do not need to see the other colours as clearly.

    Others provide good contrast, which is good for a sport such as skiing, where one needs to see dents and rises in the surface.

    Except for the lens and the coatings, there are other considerations to take into account. A pliable brow bar keeps the frame snug against the forehead. This eliminates perspiration and keeps debris from the eyes. If one needs to wear spectacles to see properly, no problem — fitovers are sunglasses that are designed to be worn over one’s spectacles.


    February 2007

    Can the World Cup ball influence games?

    It is widely believed that the white cricket ball used in ODI matches possesses swing properties that are very different compared to those of the red ball used in tests. Bowlers also believe that balls from different manufacturers have vastly different qualities. Is there any truth to this, and can it be supported by scientific facts? DR RABINDRA MEHTA, a world authority on ball aerodynamics, provides some answers

    The white Kookaburra ball will be used in the World Cup in the Caribbean next month. Will playing with the ball make a difference to players who are used to the red Dukes ball used in test matches in England, and the red SG Test ball used in India?

    Will the use of the Kookaburra ball give an advantage to players from South Africa and Australia, where this is the official ball?

    And what difference does the white ball make to bowlers used to a red test match ball?

    These are topics on the minds of all players and coaches preparing their teams for the World Cup — and one of the questions that I am asked frequently.

    This whole debate started in 1999 during the build up to the World Cup when Dukes introduced the white ball that was going to be used in the tournament. Many players claimed that this white ball possessed swing properties that were different compared to those of a conventional red one. In particular, it was claimed that a new white ball swung noticeably more than a red one.

    At first there was some debate over the accuracy of this claim and it was attributed to perhaps just a visual perception. However, in some testing performed by the BBC in New Zealand, using a bowling machine, it was demonstrated that the white ball swung measurably more than the red one at around 70 mph.

    So, what caused this difference in the swing properties?

    Well, it turns out that the Dukes white ball manufacturing process is not quite the same as that for the conventional red ball. With the conventional red ball, the leather is dyed red, greased and polished with a shellac topcoat. This final polish disappears very quickly during play and it is the grease in the leather that produces the shine when polished by the bowler. The finish applied to the white ball is slightly different. The leather is sprayed with a polyurethane white paint-like fluid and then heat-treated so that it bonds to the leather like a hard skin. As a final treatment, one coat of clear polyurethane-based topcoat is applied to further protect the white surface so that it does not get dirty easily. This extra coating ends up affecting the ball aerodynamics by making the surface smoother.

    On inspecting the Dukes white ball it is quite apparent that the surfaces over the quarter seams are much smoother compared to those on a Dukes red ball, where the ridges created by the internal stitching can be clearly seen and felt. As a consequence, a new Dukes white ball behaves like a two-piece ball and it will swing more, especially at the higher bowling speeds. A smooth surface on the side of the ball facing the batsman helps in achieving conventional swing. The smoother surface also means that reverse swing is harder to obtain with a new white ball, even at very high bowling speeds.

    With the additional outer coating, one may also expect reverse swing to occur later in the innings. The Dukes red ball was used in the memorable 2005 Ashes series and a lot of England’s success was attributed to their bowlers’ ability to produce reverse swing. Well, it turns out that it was a combination of reverse and contrast swing, but the point is that for both swing types, a rough surface on one side is the key. And, starting off with a relatively rough quarter-seam helps in achieving this condition sooner.

    So what about the Kookaburra red and white balls? Well, Kookaburra maintains vehemently that their red and white balls are manufactured using exactly the same process, except, of course, for the colour. On inspecting the red and white Kookaburra balls, I must admit that the geometric specifications look identical and I would therefore not expect any difference in their aerodynamic performance. I am not sure if all the players and coaches are convinced of this and I have also heard that they feel it is easier to polish a red Kookaburra ball than a white one. I would venture that this may perhaps be more due to visual appearance and perception than the quality of the achieved smoothness.

    The other interesting point about the Kookaburra balls is that both their white and red balls also exhibit a relatively smooth quarter-seam region. Although a thin line can be seen along the quarter seam, it does not feel as rough as the ridges on a traditional red ball.

    Therefore, the red and white Kookaburra balls will also behave more like two-piece balls and they will swing more than a conventional red ball, especially when new and at the higher bowling speeds.

    Of course, once the surface becomes roughened, reverse and contrast swing will readily come into play as was recently witnessed in the Champions Trophy in India which utilized the white Kookaburra ball.

    The Indian team have, interestingly, requested last year that they switch from the SG to the Kookaburra ball as a preparation for the World Cup.

    Rows of stitching

    What about the role of the six rows of stitching that make up the primary seam? They are certainly not identical on balls made by different manufacturers. In fact, they often vary between different brands made by the same manufacturer.

    The primary seams on the red Dukes and SG Test balls are certainly higher and more prominent than the tightly wound seams on the Dukes white ball and both (red and white) Kookaburra balls.

    So, what effect does this have on the swing properties? Well, our wind tunnel testing showed that the primary seams on almost all new balls are high enough and rough enough to cause the flow asymmetry which is necessary to produce swing.

    However, starting off with a relatively high seam means that the chances of it remaining prominent in the latter part of the innings are improved. This is relevant because a prominent primary seam is critical for both conventional and reverse swing. The condition of the primary seam has less effect on contrast swing. In fact, the primary seam can be completely bashed in and the ball (with one side smooth and the other rough) can still be contrast swung.

    In addition to the ball aerodynamics, the condition of the seam will also affect movement off the pitch. A prominent, wedge-shaped seam will generally result in more deviation than a low, flat seam.

    So rather than getting excited about the colour of the cricket ball, the bowlers would be better advised to spend time examining the condition of the primary seam and the surface roughness, especially in the quarter-seam regions. I have also noted that the embossments that are stamped on the balls sometimes provide an additional roughness, which is not always the same on both sides of the ball.

    This is a feature that I would cherish as a bowler since it helps in producing reverse and contrast swing.

    If there is enough rough-ness added to one side through the embossment stamping process, then perhaps the temptation to tamper with the ball’s surface will be reduced. I hope the ball manufacturers and the cricketing authorities are paying attention!

    Kenyan born dr. Rabindra Mehta is a Sports Aerodynamics Consultant and leading expert on aerodynamics — specifically aircraft turbulence — based at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California. His interest in cricket started at the Royal Grammar School in Worcester, England, where he opened the bowling with future Pakistani captain Imran Khan. His love of the game resulted in wind tunnel tests on the aerodynamics of the cricket ball and research on the reverse swing. He has also advised Australian bowlers on developing a new "contrast swing" action.

    February 2008

    How do balls fly?

    Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs was not taken very seriously when he complained that the design of the adidas wawa aba ball used in the African Cup of Nations flattered strikers and made goalkeepers look stupid. But could he have a point? How much does the design and construction of a ball influence its performance? TRUDI DU TOIT looks at the ball features that can influence performance

    Anyone who believes that the sports industry is not rocket science has not looked closely at the sports ball industry. It is no coincidence that one of the world experts on sports ball flight is also a rocket scientist working for NASA: the things that affect the flight of a ball are, after all, quite similar to the things that affect the flight of a spacecraft.

    To put it most simply, these are the things that make the difference between the flight of a table tennis and a golf ball, even though both are (mostly) white balls of roughly the same size. The same principles will apply to inflatable balls.

    First a bit of history

    At first, manufacturers believed that the smoother the surface of a ball, the further it would travel. Their reasoning made sense: the smoother the ball, the less wind resistance (or drag on the ball). But had it been true, then surely the smooth table tennis ball would travel further than a golf ball?

    The first golf balls consisted of leather pouches filled with wet goose feathers that were stitched on the inside, dried, oiled to make the surface smoother and painted a shiny white.

    Had there been no technological advances, selling golf balls would have been an exceptionally lucrative business as these original golf balls (called featheries) were simply thrown away when they got wet.

    Then, in 1845, the gutta-percha ball appeared on the scene. Made of heated tree gum moulded into a very smooth round shape, water did not affect them at all.

    The surface often became chipped during play and a lecturer at St Andrews University in Scotland realised that these chipped balls travelled further than the new smooth ones. He worked out that this happens because the uneven surface helped to convert the spin into lift, allowing the ball to travel farther.

    Soon gutta percha balls were being sold with all kinds of dimples, pimples and furrows on the surface. By the 1930s golf balls made by winding a rubber thread around a rubber core, and covered with dimpled enamel paint, was standard.

    Today golf ball manufacturers know that different dimple patterns result in different ball trajectories and therefore make balls with dimple patterns to suit the needs of different game styles and players.

    The same science applies to the flight of inflatable balls: dimples, indents and seams on the outside can create more spin, more lift and further flight. The outside surface also determines the amount that the ball will curve.

    Dimples and pimples

    What does it actually mean when manufacturers say a ball has:

  • An outer dimpled casing that redu- ces drag and improve aerodynamics;

  • Aerodynamic pimples or

  • Deep pebble outer

  • Strikers and goal kickers will know that balls travel further at high altitude because of the reduced resistance from the thinner air. Conversely, a ball travels less in thicker air.

    But, it is not only the wind and air pressure in the atmosphere that has an influence — if that had been the case, all balls would have travelled equally far under similar conditions.

    As you will know from sticking a hand out of a moving car, a moving object creates its own air flow. While it feels as if the air is moving from the front to the back past the car, the wind resistance (drag) is actually created by the car travelling in the opposite direction, while the air outside remains constant.

    If it had been possible to see air flow with the naked eye, one would have seen the air separate and form a thin layer of airflow, a boundary layer, very close to the surface of the car and your hand. As the air flows around your hand and the car, it produces a feeling of drag.

    Scientists working with wind tunnel experiments actually illustrate this with a mathematical formula that calculates the impact of air drag on the surface of an object. They call this the Reynold’s number, which indicates the relationship of a solid object to resistance forces.

    The more drag on a moving object, the more its speed will drop and the less far it will travel. This is indicated with a higher Reynold’s number. Lower drag has a lower number.

    Most of the drag on a ball comes from the separation of the flow as the ball sails through the air. When the air flows smoothly past a ball, the flow separates very early, causing a larger drag in its wake (high Reynold’s number).

    When there is a turbulent flow past a ball, caused by an uneven or dimpled surface, the air flow clings to the ball, forming a boundary layer that separates later. The pressure drag is thus lower (low Reynold’s number).

    Tripping this boundary layer into action makes the flight of the ball more consistent and predictable.

    The faster a smooth ball moves, the more pressure drag is produced and the faster it will slow down. But when the outer surface is rough, speed does not increase the drag by much.

    Golf balls, which are heavily dimpled, have quite a high surface roughness and the wind drag therefore drops at a relatively low Reynold’s number. A football, however, is smoother than a golf ball and the separation is reached at a much higher Reynold’s number. A volleyball surface is even smoother than a football.

    A golf ball therefore travels further than a football and a football further than a volleyball because the outer casings in each case offer less surface turbulence.

    A dimpled surface also increases lift in the ball as they help keep the air flow attached to the ball for longer (see illustration). Dimples also cause the flow to be focused into the flow of the wake.

    Although round dimples became the standard on golf balls, many other shapes were tried.

    Hexagons (six sided) dimples, for example, resulted in lower drag than round dimples, because they cover more of the ball surface than round dimples and therefore create a more turbulent surface. Tests of golf balls with hexagonal dimples showed that they not only travelled further, but were also less affected by cross-winds.

    Some golf ball manufacturers have even started including dimples with sharp corners rather than circular dimples, since research indicates that these shapes reduce drag even more. This same principle of sharp, pointed pimples was used by Gilbert in their Xact match ball.

    To summarize: Pimples, dimples or pebbles on the surface of a ball would cause the ball to travel further and can improve aerodynamics, as stated by manufacturers.

    What about the panels?

    In inflatable balls the seams of the panels will affect the turbulent flow of air around the ball in a similar way as the dimples on the outer casing. As the ball spins, the seams trigger the boundary layer of air to attach itself longer during flight, which keeps the flight of the ball more predictable.

    As can seen above, experiments have shown that hexagonal dimples cause even more turbulence than round dimples. Therefore the shape of the panels on a standard football — 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons — would contribute to the predictable flight of the ball.

    Every major international ball sport competition has its own specially designed ball and every new ball design results in complaints from at least one goalkeeper or goal kicker. Is this justified or just an excuse from losing goalkeepers or incompetent kickers?

    While complaints from the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper during the recent African Cup of Nations might be met with scepticism, the many concerns about the flight of the adidas Teamgeist ball used in the 2006 FIFA World Cup were taken seriously enough for more than one aerodynamic expert to comment.

    Goalkeepers complained that when kicked without spin, the ball swerved much more unpredictably than any other ball they had encountered. They compared this zig-zag pattern to a knuckleball in baseball.

    Baseball batters hate these knuckleballs that fly at them from every which way and are impossible to predict. It happens when pitchers throw the ball with very little spin and as the ball rotates lazily in the air, the seam disrupts the air flow around the ball at certain points on the surface, causing an unpredictable deflection.

    World Cup 2006 goalkeepers blamed the unpredictable flight of the Teamgeist ball on the fact that it was made of 14 curved panels, instead of the usual 32 hexagons and pentagons. The Teamgeist panels were also bonded together, instead of stitched on the inside, as most match balls. These two factors would have made the outer casing of the ball smoother than a normal football ball.

    Could this smoother surface account cause such an unpredictable flight?

    Dr Rabi Mehta, an aerodynamics expert working for NASA who has a special interest in the aerodynamics of sports balls, explained it as follows in Sports Trader of August 2006:

    "A football will tend to produce this unpredictable flight or knuckle (a baseball term for the same effect) when it is kicked without much spin at a critical speed. In simple terms, at this critical speed the air flow very close to the ball surface around the apex region can be affected by the seams between the panels. This can produce a lateral force which makes the ball knuckle.

    "The critical speed for a traditional football is about 20 mph. With the smoother surface, the Teamgeist ball will have a much higher critical speed, perhaps closer to 40-50 mph."

    Because free kicks are likely to be executed at about 40-50 mph the probability of the ball knuckling has increased, and the knuckling is exacerbated at the higher critical speed.

    Another sport scientist who studies the aerodynamics of balls at the University of Bath, Dr. Ken Bray, agreed that the construction of the Teamgeist could result in uneven flight.

    "Due to the fewer seams on the Teamgeist, they may move in and out of the right location to trip the boundary layer, so the ball will veer between stable and unstable movement in the air," he says.

    Even before the 2006 World Cup started Bray said:. "Watch the slow motion replays to spot the rare occasions where the ball produces little or no rotations and where goalkeepers will frantically attempt to keep up with the ball’s chaotic flight path."

    It will be interesting to see if the adidas Europass ball designed for the UEFA Euro 2008 is met with the same criticism:

  • It again has 14 panels

  • It is again thermal bonded, not stitched

  • They have added a revolutionary PSC-Texture surface structure to give it perfect handling characteristics that will allow perfect ball control.

    Good news for the goalies: this outer skin is supposed to provide a better grip between glove and ball, if and when they catch it.

    According to Dr. Mehta a lighter ball will also increase the knuckling effect and the swerve of a spinning ball.

    To summarize: more panels, stitched seams at regular intervals, and the FIFA recommended weight should result in better aerodynamics and a truer flight.

    It’s what’s inside!

    But, its not only the outside that influences how a ball behaves. What goes inside is equally important.

    The rounder the ball, the greater its balance in flight. A ball that loses shape during a match, is obviously not going to perform as well as when the match started.

    The amount of air pressure in a ball will affect how far the ball will travel when struck by a boot (head, or hand). The higher the air pressure, the better a ball will rebound as more energy is transferred to a stiff ball. If a ball deforms during impact, energy will be lost to deformation.

    Inflatable balls will lose air pressure over time, especially those with latex bladders, which lose air pressure faster than balls that use butyl bladders.

    Natural latex rubber bladders offer the softest feel and response, but do not provide the best air retention as micro pores slowly allow air to escape. Balls with natural rubber bladders therefore need to be re-inflated more often than balls with butyl bladders.

    The latex bladder will leak enough air to become necessary to inflate the ball back to recommended pressure every day or two. Some balls use carbon-latex bladders — the carbon powder helps to close the micro pores — which can increase air retention to about a week.

    Some manufacturers have addressed the problem by using more than one bladder.

    Balls with butyl or PU bladders can keep air for weeks and months. They are usually used in most middle to upper priced balls.

    To summarize: a ball with high air pressure will perform better than a ball that deflates and deforms. Butyl or PU bladders retains air longer, but latex offers the softest feel and response.

    Rugby ball shape

    The rounder a football, the better it performs. So, what about the shape of a rugby ball?

    The oval shape and rounded ends of a rugby ball is not a very aerodynamic design and the ball will therefore have more drag than, for example, a round ball or the pointed ends of an American football.

    But, this is ideal for the play requirements of a rugby game, as more drag is better suited to the short passes that are characteristic of the game. Had the ends of the rugby ball been more pointed, passes would have travelled across the length of the field like in American football.

    From the above description of the effect of drag on the flight of a ball, it is clear that any irregularity on the surface of a ball will affect the air flow, and hence the flight of a ball.

    These could be scuffs and abrasions on the soft leather outer of a football — that is why durable nylon wound balls are so popular on our hard fields — or the placement of the valve, especially in a rugby ball, will influence flight.

    While a round football does not have different sides, an oval rugby ball will have a top and bottom, which would need to be balanced if a truer flight is required.

    Ball manufacturers have therefore overcome the problem of valve placement affecting flight by placing the valve in a seam, or placing valves on opposite sides of a ball to improve balance.

    In rugby it is also very important that the player should be able to catch and hold on to a ball even in foul weather — but also release it quickly. The outer casing of a rugby ball is therefore a crucial component of the ball manufacturing process. It must be sticky enough not to slip through the fingers, but not tacky so that the player can not release it fast enough.

    Requirements of different sports

  • Basketball, netball & korfbal: Shorter and predictable flights as well as good rebound required. Surface can be smoother and usually has very small pimples. All-surface balls must be scuff-resistant (usually rubber or composites) while indoor balls can be made of more absorbent material. The surface must have enough texture for the player to get a good grip.

  • Football: requires predictable straight flight when passing, but also the ability to lift and curve into the goal box. Players must be able to retain good ball control with their feet.

  • Rugby: A rugby ball must have a very predictable flight during short passes as well as long goal kicks. Balance and a surface with a predictable air-flow is therefore required. The surface must also enable the players to get a good grip when catching, but enable quick-release when passing.

  • Waterpolo: Shorter and predictable flights as well as a waterproof surface is required. Players must be able to get a good grip in water and a pimpled surface therefore required. Water polo balls must be yellow for crowd visibility, but FINA now allows a blue panel in the middle.

  • Caring for balls

  • Do not over- or under-pressurise a ball. Use the manufactures recommended air pressure that is printed on most balls. It is recommended that you use a pressure gauge to measure the exact amount of pressure in a ball after inflating and before use.

  • Manufacturers recommend that you reduce the air pressure in your match balls after a game to reduce the amount of stress on the ball seams or stitching. Be sure to inflate the ball back to proper pressure before the match.

  • Continious pressure of air in the bladder against seams may cause the material and stitching to stretch and this could result in the ball loosing shape.

  • Before you first inflate a ball, place a couple drops of silicone oil or silicone lubricant spray or glycerin oil into the valve. Using one of the lubricants will improve the life of the valve and lubricate the valve for easy insertion of the inflation needle.

  • Always moisten the inflation needle before you insert it into the valve. Preferably, use some silicone oil, silicone spray or glycerine oil to moisten the needle.


  • February 2007

    How to solve the chlorine problem

    Tammy Rutherford of Second Skins, a local competitive swimwear manufacturer for over 20 years, discuss the damage caused by chlorine

    The increase in the popularity of swimming at all levels is very good news as our local talent are keeping us in touch with the best swimmers on the planet. Ryk Neetling, Roland Schoeman, Suzaan van Biljon, Terrance Parkin and Natalie du Toit immediately spring to mind.

    This popularity comes at a cost.

    More swimmers mean more bacteria in pools. Longer training seasons result in more pools being heated, which is also great for bacteria …

    The result? Pools are being more heavily chlorinated than before, whether with salt chlorination or gas chlorination, you can smell the chlorine when you open your car door 200m from your gym’s indoor pool. Even after you showered, the smell on your skin is still strong.

    This results in a reduction in the lifespan of swimwear used in school and public pools. The proliferation of fabrics being marketed that offer increased chlorine resistance indicate how broad the problem is. Waternity (Arena) Chlorotuff, Chloresist, Endurance (Speedo) , Aquamax, Chloroban, and Durafast, the list continues…

    The reality is that any fabric that has elastane (Spandex, Lycra) included in its make up, will break down and loose its stretch over time. The dilemma is that elastane is what gives you the fabulous fit that swimmers have become accustomed to.

    New more chlorine-resistant elastics that prolong fabric lifespan are, however, being developed, for example Roica. They are a little more costly, but are well worth the investment for regular swimmers as they provide the tight fit of Lycra, but they last much longer.

    A really serious swimmer training daily may need to consider a costume made from PBT. Made from 100% polyester, it has a natural stretch similar to spandex. It has a wonderful matt finish and colourfastness unachievable with nylon Lycra fabrics. It also lasts longer in chlorine than Lycra.

    In some ways it is the answer to over-chlorinated pools, but because the fit of a Lycra swimsuit is hard to beat, swimmers will probably train in PBT, but still choose to compete in Lycra.

    The bulk of swimwear sales are still made up from basic nylon fabric, but serious swimmers that train daily may need to consider something more durable and chlorine resistant — for instance, the Roica Resist or PBT Ultra options.


    August / September 2008

    Plenty of choice in boxing and martial arts

    Boxing and various forms of martial arts have always been very popular sports in SA. While the country has produced a ring of champions in the past, the consumer profile has changed as boxing and martial arts have become popular as fitness activities. There has also been an influx of new brands on the market. Did retailers keep abreast of these developments, or do boxers still have to rely on their clubs to buy boxing equipment, without the option to shop around? EBRAHIM MOERAT asked some suppliers

    There was a time when young, aspiring boxers and martial artists struggled to get their hands on affordable clothes, gear and training equipment, making it more challenging for them to follow in the footsteps of their heroes. Those were the days when most retailers did not keep boxing or martial arts accessories in store, and participants therefore had no choice but to buy it through their respective clubs, without being able to compare prices.

    Fortunately, this arrangement has changed over the last few years as more retailers and sporting outlets are selling boxing and martial arts gear and equipment.

    Consumers and retail stockists now also have a much bigger spread of local and international brands to choose from.

    Everlast boxing equipment returned to SA about a year ago — although their lifestyle sport fashion ranges have been keeping local consumers aware of the brand name. This prominent international brand was the official boxing supplier to the Beijing Olympics.

    Clothing brands Cutrite, Samson and Converse are not only well-known in the professional boxing ring, but also among Norwood’s boxercisers who train at Nick Durandt’s boxercise gym to keep fit, as the local supplier, Skye Clothing, sponsors the gym. Boxing gear from these brands are also available to the public through retailers — whether for boxing of fitness training.

    Some of SAs best-known boxers have in recent years won their bouts wearing shorts supplied by Skye: the best known is Silence Mabuza, SAs most decorated amateur boxer, who wears Cut-Rite in the ring.

    Converse sponsors boxers like Cassius Baloyi, Africa’s only 6-time World Champion, Phumzile Mathyila, WBC International flyweight champion; Sphiwe Nonqayi, current WBF jnr bantamweight World Champion; Evans Mbamba, WBC International jnr bantamweight champion. Isaac Hlatswayo, who has two World Champion titles and Vincent Vuma, WBC International and current SA jnr middleweight champion wear Samson.

    A boxing range from international sportswear brand adidas has also been available to SA retailers for the past year or so from distributor SNT.

    The UK’s Lonsdale brand became known as a fashion sports brand, teaming up with various celebrities such as Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Robinson. Lillywhites in the V&A Waterfront houses exclusive Lonsdale fighting equipment and apparel, but as this is their own brand, made famous by Mohammed Ali, they do not supply to other retailers, but offer consumers another choice.

    With so many choices, product availability is no longer an issue and boxers no longer have to endure a lengthy wait for equipment ordered from overseas to arrive as in the past, says Everlast brand manager Heyno Landman. “Today, boxing has become more than just a sport. Today it’s seen as one of the best all-round exercises for the individual, and as the demand for equipment grew, so too did the supply.

    Glenda Babaya, managing member of manufacturer Day Motion says although sales still do take place through clubs, retailers are now more willing to stock boxing equipment, making it more accessible to everyone.

    “Sports retailers are stocking a very large range of boxing accessories. Sportsmans Warehouse, in particular, has one of the most comprehensive ranges of boxing accessories, including top brands such as Title and Everlast. The Title range includes everything from punch-bags, to gloves, mitts, angle-bags, medicine-balls, and all types of professional boxing gloves.”

    Both Babaya and Landman agree that overall sales of equipment has been on the increase — even in mall stores!

    “Most of our sales are in the cities at shopping malls where the demand is highest, but we also supply to specialist and general stores in more remote areas,” says Landman. “Everlast has sold very well over the last twelve months. At the moment we can’t keep up with the incredible demand for our gear. We knew from the outset there was a definite market for it, but we underestimated the true potential,” he enthuses.

    Consumer lifestyle also plays a big role with many gyms incorporating boxing in their fitness programmes. “The growth can largely be attributed to a change in fitness trends,” says Landman. “People are looking for something more exciting than an hour on the treadmill and boxing provides that opportunity.”

    Babaya says it is difficult to say what the reason for the growth is, but boxing sales in general have definitely grown. “It’s also hard to tell, from a demographic point of view, where growth has been more prominent as we don’t supply the end user, but the retailers,” explains Babaya.

    Landman believes the biggest growth in boxing occurs in Gauteng and the Western Cape, but he stresses that participation in the Eastern Cape still can’t be beaten.

    The sales of all the different boxing accessories are also on an even keel. “Most in demand is our PU training gloves, entry-level gear, pink gloves for ladies and other accessories like skipping ropes, hand-wraps, punching bags and medicine balls along with our specialist equipment such as speed-bags, floor-to-ceiling balls, focus mitts and professional leather boxing gloves,” says Landman.

    Sales of boxing gloves along with the shoes and equipment like punchbags, wall brackets, etc. generally go hand in hand, so growth by comparison is fairly even,” explains Babaya.

    On the whole, she believes easier access to gear and equipment is proving to be highly beneficial to the sport on all levels. With boxing gloves and punching bags more readily available at malls and warehouse stores, it’s not only serious boxers who buy the equipment, “but also guys and girls who like to punch it out with a punch- or boxingbag in the backyard or gym for exercise.”

    Martial arts everywhere

    The same applies to martial arts, says Opal Sport’s Nigel Prout: it’s much easier for participants to acquire clothing and equipment nowadays.

    They have been supplying the local market with Mitsuko martial arts suits for more than three decades and up to a few years ago there was some resistance from retailers to stock judo or karate suits.

    “The majority of retailers presently offer stock to the public and our sales predominantly take place through sport stores, although clubs continue to provide a steady feed,” says Prout.

    He also confirms that there has been a steady growth in martial arts support. “I think in all its various forms, martial arts have lately become more popular in SA. The reason for this is purely because of its popularity all over the world.

    “It’s difficult to highlight one particular area where growth is more apparent, but in general the sales of all our products are evenly matched. Clothing, training gloves and headgear are standard requirements in clubs.”


    October 2002

    Rugby jerseys: Anything is now possible

    Exciting new technologies make it now possible for rugby players to enjoy a combination of moisture management, breathability in a jersey with stunning designs

    There was a time — not so long ago — when all rugby jerseys were one colour, or at most had horizontal stripes, or contrasting colours on the collar and cuffs. There was also a time when all rugby jerseys were made of knitted cotton that became heavier and soggier as the game and players heated up.

    Then adidas launched the 1999 World Cup All Black jersey with its Climalite technology that absorbed perspiration to keep the players cool and dry — in the region of their jerseys, in any case. This was followed by the multi-coloured Stormers jersey with patches of colour never thought possible in rugby jerseys — but, by then, common in soccer jerseys. This lightweight jersey was made of polyester and the colours were sublimated or printed on, making any design possible. Rugby jerseys would never be the same again.

    Since then, descriptions like sublimation, moisture management and breathability have become part of rugby strip terminology.

    There was, however, a catch: the intricate designs made possible by sublimation could only be done on polyester — which does not breathe. Only cotton breathes, but cotton could only be knitted in straight lines.

    But all that has changed. Canterbury has now developed a new fabric technology, called Techtex, which enables them to knit any design under the sun into a poly-cotton jersey, provided that no more than four colours are used at one time. Poly-cotton is a mixture of polyester and cotton, with benefits of both.

    Which provides a rugby team with a whole lot of exciting options to consider when selecting new strips, or customers when buying replica.

    Bright and breathable

    The new fabric technology makes it possible to knit any kind of design — be it a logo, brand name or just for styling — into a jersey.

    Techtex is a poly-cotton fabric that was developed by Canterbury and is manufactured locally. “It is strong, comfortable, breathable and absorbs moisture,” explains Canterbury’s SA marketing manager Wayne Stanford.

    Techtex, manufactured and developed in SA, is a further developmentof the New Zealand made fabric Temex. Techtex is lighter and stronger, while still giving the advantage of player comfort.

    “The design to be knitted into the fabric is done on a computer and saved on a disk that can be kept and re-used forever — even if the colours change the following year. New colours are simply allocated at no extra cost,” says Stanford. “If you print on a jersey, you have to pay to have new plates made every time a colour changes.”

    One of the main benefits of knitting a design into poly-cotton, is the fact that the fabric is breathable — the fibre opens when warm so that perspiration can evaporate and closes when it gets colder. This limits the loss of moisture and regulates the body temperature as it opens and closes.

    The strength of Techtex has been fully tested on the field. The Sharks have been playing Super 12 and Currie Cup matches in Techtex for the past two years, and there has never been a jersey failure.

    Benefits of polyester

    There are also several benefits to sublimated polyester jerseys. Provided that the polyester used for the rugby jersey is of the highest quality — this was a lesson that Larry Miller of Springs Shirts learnt when he was offered inferior quality. That delayed his launch of a new rugby range by nearly a year — but orders can now be placed, he says.

    “We cannot begin to stress the importance a buyer needs to place on the type and quality of polyester used in these new jerseys,” says Bernadine Abbott of 4th of July, manufacturer of PowerPlay jerseys worn by, amongst others, eight Super 12 and provincial rugby teams.

    4th of July has been instrumental in researching polyester fabrics that provide all the right criteria when it comes to strength, moisture management, washing, comfort and cosmetic appeal. There are many different types of polyesters available on the market, but we believe that in Aqua Dry we have the one and only true moisture management fabric that far out-performs all others in the above areas.

    “The days when polyesters were spoken of as plastic bags that do not absorb sweat, are long gone,” she says.

    The Aqua Dry fabric absorbs moisture from the inside and wicks it away from the body so that it can evaporate — thus keeping the body dry and the player cool. “Cotton jerseys are known to hold moisture, creating a heavy, uncomfortable product that clings to the body,” says Abbott.

    Aqua Dry also has a soil releasing property that ensures that the muddiest of games will not ruin a jersey — a mild 20°C wash will even return whites to white. “Due to the porous nature of the fabric, the washing and drying time is reduced by half.” The fabric does not shrink, and rugby shorts can be manufactured in the same fabric.

    The benefit of sublimation printing — that can only be done on polyester — is the fact that it offers “fantastic design freedom, sharp colour and design definition. Colours will not fade as the colour is heat pressed into the fabric.”

    Any number of colour combinations can be used to create a vibrant design. “The commercial nature of rugby requires a rugby jersey to be used as a promotional vehicle, and the higher the visibility component, the better,” says Abbott.

    Branding and numbers can also be directly sublimated onto the garment at a cost effective price. This eliminates the weaknesses that are sometimes caused by large embroidered areas on knitted jerseys, which can create tearing.

    Drawbacks

    The problem with these innovations is that like in all highly specialised technologies, sublimation can become costly. And each design added, drives the cost up, explains Miller.

    “However, it is important to understand what you are getting for your money — and I believe Aqua Dry offers the greatest value for money available on the market,” says Abbott. “We have now launched a standard range, in the moisture management fabric, but with limited design and colour options, at extremely competitive prices. The standard rugby jersey sells for an average of R115 — R135, but the customised product will cost R160 — R230.”

    Due to the cost of sublimation and moisture management, Gilbert developed a knitted poly-cotton jersey for clubs and schools that is much more affordable. It is breathable, but cannot be sublimated and numbers and designs therefore have to be embroidered or attached.


    August 2007

    Stock up on new kit bags and smile, smile

    With daypacks becoming high fashion items and rucksacks replacing suitcases, the prospects for selling backpacks are looking better than ever before. Several new suppliers add further vibrancy to the market. TRUDI DU TOIT report their views on the features that sell different kinds of backpacks

    With supermodels strutting down catwalks with daypacks swinging from their shoulders (see article), it comes as no surprise that local backpack distributors say that daypacks are the current flavour of the month. It actually does not need more than a walk through a local shopping mall to see that daypacks have become the handbags of young people who have never dreamt of going on a hike. Most schools have also relaxed their rules on proper school bags, and many well-known backpack brand names therefore nowadays line the corridors outside classrooms.

    Apart from their current fashion appeal, daypacks are also good sellers because of their versatility and use in all sporting activities — especially cycling, day walks, motor cycling and adventure racing.

    Many young (and even not so young) travellers have also swopped a solid suitcase for a lighter backpack, adding another dimension to the hiking backpack market.

    And with many a South African embarking on Kili expeditions — or even more adventurous climbs – the market for expedition packs is also kept alive.

    All in all the current trading conditions for backpacks are looking good and retailers have a diverse variety of suppliers to choose from.

    Karrimor is now pulling out all the stops to regain the market share lost before the local distributorship changed hands just over a year ago, says Steve Gallienne of the supplier Dunslaz Distributors.

    "We are fast tracking our distribution and range to regain the brand’s rightful place as a credible leading international brand that consumers can purchase with confidence — and most importantly, be able to purchase as stocks will again be readily available on retail shelves. We have an exciting range coming that will bring the brand back from a place where it should never have gone!"

    The new range will feature their Airspace ventilation system which not only reduces back perspiration, but also has a hip harness that pivots as the body moves, keeping the pack comfortable and stable. "Quality is essential and all bags come with top of the range materials, features, benefits and YKK zip systems," says Gallienne.

    Hi-Tec — one of the most popular names in the SA outdoor footwear market — has recently expanded into the backpack market with an extensive range covering the needs of all backpackers, although the highest demand is for hiking and daypacks, says marketing manager Lauren Ploos (see Sports Trader February 2007).

    Vaude is a high-quality international brand that was introduced to the local market by Eiger Equipment during last year. They recently won the OutDoor Industry Award 2007 at the OutDoor Europe Show with their flexible Versametric System that distributes the weight of heavy loads away from the hips — saving strength and energy. While their large expedition packs are good sellers amongst the climbing fraternity, their daypacks have given the range a wider appeal.

    Medalist is a fast-growing local brand developed by De Wet Sports. They now also offer an extensive backpack range, which includes campus bags — aimed at the student and scholar market — sports bags, daypacks and various sizes of hiking packs.

    Bushtec, locally manufactured and distributed by Canvas and Tent, concentrate on the larger hiking backpack and expedition pack market – also used by off-roaders and motor cyclists who go camping – and have five packs in their range.

    The versatility of daypacks give suppliers of specialist climbing brands, like Black Diamond, an entry into a much wider market, says Alex Eppel, sales manager of local distributor Ram Mountaineering. "Most of the Black Diamond pack range is specifically oriented towards climbing which is a fairly small market, but our daypack range is extremely versatile, offering durability, lightweight and stylish design."

    Mountain Hardwear, recently introduced into SA by Adventure Inc. is, however aimed at an exclusive niche market, says Christo Snyman. These top end bags – the international brand was acquired by Columbia Sportswear last year – are aimed at the specialist climbers and retailers must commit to a minimum order of R50 000.

    Daypacks

    As can be expected from a product that has become a fashion accessory, styling and design is a strong selling point for the smaller (10-20 litre) daypacks. These packs are good sellers for even the specialist brands.

    Black Diamond’s daypacks are the most popular in their range, for their versatility and simple design. Ram Mountaineering also offer a rain proof daypack from WX Tex which is the only one of its kind in SA, says Eppel. "It is great for motorcycle riding, wet weather hiking, or just no worries commuting."

    Hi-Tec’s bags are incredibly well priced, says Ploos. "In the daypack category design, comfort and functionality are the main focus." Their 21litre Streetpack has an internal CD/MP3 player pocket with headphone cable access and many other pockets for the goods youngsters accumulate. Other comfort features are adjustable shoulder straps, chest and waist straps and a top- mounted hand strap.

    “Karrimor is showing phenomenal growth in our Kodiak and Zodiak Series Packs,” says Gallienne. Zodiak offers 15,20 and 25 litre packs without rain cover, while the Kodiak offers 25,30 and 35 litrer options with rain cover and a hydration option. “Both come at very affordable prices.”

    Medalist offers the 20 litre Vital daypack in 600 D Ripstop Nylon with one large main compartment with a drawstring and flap that clips closed to protect contents. The multi-functional design includes YKK zips.

    The slightly bigger fabric 25 litre Metro in 600 Denier Nylon has added comfort features like S-curve shoulder straps with breathable mesh padding, a back panel with breathable mesh padding and a front utility pocket with extra stash compartment.

    Mountain Hardwear’s daypacks are ultra-light and also comfortable and stylish enough for the commuter, says Eppel.

    Vaude’s Wizard and Gallery models are suitable for anything from daytrips to town and office use, says John Fonteyn of local distributor Eiger Equipment, as they feature almost everything one could want from a daypack - from inner compartments and pockets, to hydration system-readiness, to an integrated splash cover. Customers like a versatile pack – something for both the city and the bush.

    Traditional sports brands are also now offering bags that can double up as versatile daypacks.

    Admiral’s 20 litre twin compartment backpack is very popular with touring teams and can beembroidered with club/school or sponsors logos etc, says Colin Farrer of LGB Distributors. It is very affordable, retailing at just over R100.

    MRF has a new daypack that should appeal specifically to young cricketers who do not want to carry a heavy kitbag, or to athletes who cycle to practice, says Farrer.

    Hiking backpacks

    Hikers most value a light backpack, with comfortable padded and ergonomically shaped shoulder harnesses, quality hip belts and upper stabilizer chest straps that help lift the load from the shoulders and distribute the weight more equally across the body. A hip belt that goes round the body and has soft, broad padding to avoid pressure points will add much comfort if a heavy load is carried as it moves the strain from your shoulders down to your hips and closer to your center of gravity.

    The price is important to customers in the less specialized market, while the inclusion of a hydration system is an added bonus. According to distributors, the most popular hiking bag sizes vary between 25 liter and 40-50 liter.

    Outer pockets are handy for items needed while hiking — e.g. water bottles or sunglasses — but should not be too big as too much weight can cause a shift in the center of mass. Inner pockets are handy to separate wet and dry items.

    Look out for:

    Bushtec’s 45 litre Action hiking pack features a double bottom compartment that can zip out. Comfort features in Bushtec’s hiking range include an adjustable air-con or air-flow mesh backing systems, adjustable back frames, extendable compartments and pockets, sternum straps with lumbar pads, and a top lid with mesh zip pockets in the 55liter Adventure.

    Hi-Tec’s Nova 30 litre backpack comes with adjustable straps, airway mesh ventilation, lumbar support and rain cover in durable nylon material.

    In the Karrimor range styles such as the Ether 50 Tall and Vapour 45 Tall are expected to be good sellers. "Everthing to do with the make up of the bags has been considered to provide the best combination of lightweight and durability," says Gallienne. "The bags have also been designed for stripping down to an even leaner weight."

    Medalist’s backpack range include the 20 litre Gyro with has two main compartments and comfort features like S-curve shoulder straps with breathable mesh, padding and an adjustable sternum strap, a back panel with breathable mesh padding and a hip belt for stability.

    The Explore (24 litre) is slightly bigger and also has a front nylon/mesh stash pocket that clips open for easy access.

    The bigger (32 litre) Ranger has the same comfort features, but the one large compartment is divided by mesh.

    The Nomad (38 litre) has a bungee cord gear stash in addition to the features in the above packs.

    Vaude's Tergolight Easy Adjust System allows you to change the distribution of weight from your shoulders to your hips and vice versa with just one tug. "With large packs, the quality of the harness system and hip-belt is critical," says Fonteyn. "The system also features the fastest and simplest torso length adjustment on the backpack market – you can even adjust it while hiking!" A preformed 3D hipbelt ensures comfort for long treks.

    Expedition packs

    Weight — or the lack there of — is a major consideration in the extra large (50-60 liter and more) expedition packs. Comfort features also become extremely important when you are on a long trek with all your possessions on your back and as the load increases, the technical features of shoulder harnesses becomes more valued – ergonomically curved, broader and better padded shoulder straps prevent the straps from cutting into your shoulders. The quality of hip and chest straps to help distribute the load also become more vital as the weight of the load increases.

    Ventilation between the pack and the back and a hydration option are important to some customers, report suppliers of expedition packs.

    Other features that expedition trekkers value are protection against rain or water when crossing rivers, or dew at night. Some backpacks have a waterproof cover that can be used to cover the entire backpack.

    While the placement of outer pockets etc are important to some suppliers, others believe the serious climbers that buy these packs want to keep them as light and simple as possible.

    Look out for:

    Black Diamond’s expedition range has the minimalist design approach that serious mountaineering requires, says Eppel.

    Bushtec offers two large expedition bags (70 — litre double compartment — and 90 litres) with adjustable back frames, mesh padded backing systems, adjustable shoulder straps and pads, sternum straps and accessory straps which include a foldable bottle holder.

    The Camelbak Maximum Gear & Mystery Ranch are military-quality ranges made to carry heavy loads, yet still be comfortable.

    Hi-Tec’s expedition range is designed to be lightweight and competitive in price, says Ploos. "Hydration systems are becoming more important. The comfort factor is vital therefore a lot of emphasis is placed on straps, lumbar support and ventilation." Their 55 litre Volcano and 45 litre Pacific packs in durable nylon, have height-adjustable S-shaped straps with lumbar support for comfort, a splash cover, circular lower zip access, lateral compression straps and a removable frame.

    The Jaguar is the flagship of the Karrimor expedition range. "This bag has lots of features to offer, says Gallienne, and is showing a strong up-turn in sales internationally. This claim is supported by endorsements from top mountaineers like the UK’s renowned climber, photographer and writer Dave Pickford, who says "this product is impressive — and that includes the durability."

    Mountain Hardwear’s ultra-light, precision-designed expedition packs are equipped with the right gear straps for the job, and nothing more, says Eppel.

    "The Vaude Accept 65 and 75 litre packs have sold exceptionally well due to the fact that they are top-end models at a price that suits the local market," says local distributor John Fonteyn of Eiger Equipment.

    The latest Vaude Versametric Trekking backpacks feature their award-winning technology that distributes the weight of heavy loads away from the hips, saving strength and energy. Working in close collaboration with medical experts and professional mountaineers, they developed an ultra-light pendulum system with high stability.

    While the weight of a conventional backpack bears down on the hips and has to be moved with every step, the Versametric System ensures that the movements are absorbed by the hipbelt, centrally transmitted to the middle and then distributed to save strength and energy. The Versametric hipbelt follows every hip movement, yet does not transfer this movement to the pack itself, which remains stationary. This minimizes energy input, enhances performance and spares joints. To ease descents, the pendulum motion can be locked into position with one hand.

    Hydration packs

    Combination storage and hydration packs are becoming popular options, especially with customers who hike or cycle in areas where water is not easily available or they will not have the time to pump and purify water. But, not all customers like hydration systems — some still prefer a wide mouth water bottle, especially if they go on long hikes where purification and filtration of water becomes necessary (see below).

    Look out for:

    The Bushtec 30 litre Extreme hiking bag has a detachable 1.5litre water bladder, as well as a detachable organiser and several outside pockets. Comfort features in this lightweight backpack include a raincover, compression straps, sternum straps and waistbelt, as well as a mesh padded backing system.

    Hi-Tec’s hydration packs cater more for the hiker than the cyclist with 20 Litre storage and a 2 litre bladder. The Speedpack – 18 litre bag and 2 litre bladder with bite valve – have contoured padded shoulder straps with dual water piping routing, air comfort back padding, a large main compartment with external zip pocket and an external bungee cord for additional storage.

    Karrimor is currently offering some excellent pricing on all their hydration packs.

    All Ram Mountaineering’s packs have hydration systems built in. Their E3 Pace 13L is an adventure racing pack with a built in helmet carrier, map sized outer pockets, reflective tags and a rugged Cordura shell.

    Climbing packs

    In specialized climbing ranges like Black Diamond and Mountain Hardwear comfort and ergonomical features far outweigh the demand for frills like outer pockets or streamlined designs, says Eppel.

    Vaude and Edelrid have developed the first climbing packs and harnesses that are compatible - solving the problem of climbers with a backpack: either you had to cinch the hipbelt of the backpack over your climbing harness, which limited access to the gear loops, or you took off the detachable hipbelt, which created the disadvantage of climbing with an unstable backpack. Before the climb, the hipbelt of the new VAUDE climbing backpack is detached and connected through a special side buckle directly to the Edelrid climbing harness. Thanks to the e-Link, the backpack has a more stable fit and features full access to the gear loops.

    In the new generation of Vaude climbing packs equipped with the e-Link technology all gear loops can be stored away without a trace when needed, so your pack won’t get caught on any sharp rocks going up.

    Travelling bags

    Karrimor offers a popular series of traveling bags that have all the features of a suitcase but also have detachable day packs and tons of other features, such as comfortable carrying systems, carry on versions with wheels, and lots more.

    The Vaude Denver 75 can be carried like a regular suitcase or slingbag but also features a comfortable harness system for carrying on the back. Internal space is maximized with straps to secure the contents during travel. The 2008 range of travel packs from Vaude will feature two new packs that feature wheels in addition to shoulder straps. A carry-on version will also be available.


    October / November 2008

    The P’s & Q’s of Cue Sport

    There’s black ball, 8-ball, 9-ball, snooker, billiards and even carom... do you know what kind of equipment to sell to a customer asking for cue sport equipment? JOHN McKEAG asked the controlling body for cue sport to explain the differences and the equipment needed

    Who of us of a certain age did not want to shed a tear recently when the news of Paul Newman’s death at 83 was announced? It must have been felt particularly among the cue community where memories of his artistic portrayals in The Hustler and The Color of Money engendered an interest in the game of pool that still lives on.

    But this is not about Paul Newman and his films, but about cue — a collective term that includes billiards, snooker, and pool under many names in its influence.

    According to a knowledgeable source on the internet, English billiards and its many offshoots — pool, snooker, 9-ball, 8-ball and trick pool — are best known as games played in smoky pubs across the world, sometimes for money, sometimes for fun, sometimes for both.

    Billiards first made an appearance in the 1400s at the court of France’s King Louis XI and the game has a long history in Europe. But the game — or games — as we know them today only became popular in the early 20th century.

    Although many variations of billiards evolved during the 19th century, most enjoyed only a brief period of popularity before fading into obscurity. Only snooker and pool have survived more or less intact.

    As in most Western countries, snooker and pool in SA are wildly popular amateur sports, with various leagues, clubs and competitions dotted around the country, and pool tables to be found in most pubs.

    To get more information about the local game I went to Peter Hawley, president of the SA Confederation of Cue Sport, the umbrella body of the different cue sports like billiards, snooker and the various games of pool.

    Three affiliates of the confederation are the National Blackball Federation, Pool SA (8-ball pool) and Snooker and Billiards SA. English 8-ball is the game recognised by the confederation.

    Hawley was quick to point out that the organized competitive game in this country is English 8-ball and there is a great similarity in the games, even to the point of using the same equipment — with some variations.

    He explained that you do not need different cues and balls for 8-ball and blackball pool.

    According to Hawley 10% of the rules differ but the games are technically similar, although when it comes to associations with controlling bodies, blackball belongs to the World Pool Billiard Association and 8-ball takes its lead from the World Eight Ball Pool Federation.

    Same equipment

    Having said that both games can be played with the same equipment, Hawley explained that the same cue can be used, but the balls are different in size and colour.

    It is only the table that differs; snooker is played on a 12’ table (metric measurement does not seem to be a part of cue sports) but blackball and 8-ball are played on a 7’ table.

    So, according to Hawley, no equipment is used specifically by any one group.

    According to Wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia cue sports (sometimes spelled cuesports) are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick which is used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered billiard table bounded by rubber cushions.

    Historically, the umbrella term was billiards. While that familiar name is still employed by some as a generic label for all such games, the word’s usage has splintered into more exclusive competing meanings among certain groups and geographic regions. In the UK. Billiards refers exclusively to English billiards, while in the US it is sometimes used to refer to a particular game, or class of games, or to all cue games in general, depending upon dialect and context.

    There are three major subdivisions of games within cue sports:

  • Carom billiards, referring to games played on tables without pockets, including, among others, balkline and straight rail, cushion caroms, three-cushion billiards and artistic billiards.

  • Pocket billiards (or pool) generally played on a table with six pockets, including among others eight-ball (the world’s most widely played cue sport), nine-ball, straight pool, one-pocket and bank pool.

  • Snooker, while technically a pocket billiards game, is generally classified separately based on its historic divergence from other games, as well as a separate culture and terminology that characterize its play.

  • So there certainly are a diverse number of games under the one collective name cue.

    But, while the game enjoys the status of being a game for all, there appears to be confusion as to the various structures that control the game.

    As in all sports in SA it is the official body SASCOC that has the last say and the SA Confederation of Cue Sport is the one recognised as the national sports body.

    The Confederation has SABSA (snooker), CSA (Carom) and SAPU as its members and it is the umbrella body for cue sports in the country. However, when SASCOC awards national colours it does so separately for each branch of the sport.

    Hawley says that each discipline has its own national organisation and runs independently. SAPU, as far as possible, makes sure that there are no clashes of events between members, thereby allowing players to compete in more than one discipline.

    Four world champions

    This year the World Blackball championships were held in Swaziland in August and South African players were the stars of the show. A South African Wetsi Morake won the World singles and was crowned as the World Cup Blackball Player of the tournament. South Africans Alan Broude is the World Over 40 Champion, Apsra Panchoo won the ladies division and Sandile Madlala the U23 competition.

    Spain beat the SA team in the finals to win the world title in the seniors category and in the U23 division, the championship went to the Irish team after beating the hard-fighting South Africans in the finals. SA eventually got consolation after their ladies’ team beat England to take home the title.



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