Tending to the Turf: Why Repairing Divots on a Rugby Pitch is Essential

Tending to the Turf: Why Repairing Divots on a Rugby Pitch is Essential

When rugby players take to the pitch they embark on a physical and exhilarating journey leaving it all out on the field. The role of a groundsman is frequently overlooked and underappreciated. While the unveiling of a high quality pitch on match day may not draw much attention any shortcomings become glaringly evident when the quality of the pitch disrupts play or leads to player injury. Groundsmen understand that ensuring player safety is paramount for clubs, and maintaining a safe pitch is of utmost importance. A safe playing surface is characterised by its evenness, devoid of bumps or irregularities ideally covered entirely with grass.

In the heat of a competitive match particularly on damp days when the soil is soft, the emergence of torn-up divots on the surface is virtually inevitable. The paramount task for the grounds team is to swiftly replace these divots and rectify any damage inflicted upon the pitch. In nations where pitches endure heavy usage and are expected to remain playable nearly year-round divot repair stands as a critical aspect of sports pitch upkeep. Teams designated for match day divoting should undergo thorough training and receive clear instructions on the precise procedures as inadequately repaired divots can pose safety risks. Grounds teams want to keep as much grass as possible on their playing surface during winter so it's vital they undertake the task of divoting.


                                  Photo Laura Malkin/Allett Mowers 


Understanding Divots:

Before delving into their repair, it's essential to understand what divots are and how they form. Divots are essentially chunks of turf displaced from the ground often resulting from the forceful impact of players' boots during action. These divots not only create uneven playing surfaces but also disrupt the grass's root system hindering its ability to regenerate and thrive. Divots have a better chance of establishing themselves when they are fresh and should be repaired as soon as possible after the damage occurs.  Divoting can take place during competitive matches at half time and straight after the final whistle. 

Using a fork you can replace the divot back into the hole it came from giving it the best chance of repair. You can then stamp it down with your feet so it is fully in the hole it came from. Moisture is key if the divot is allowed to dry out it will die.

For larger, deeper divots and areas where divots are entirely absent the optimal approach is to extract the divot and replace the bald spot with a pre-prepared divot mix. After removing the divot and any excess thatch the exposed area can be filled with a blend of soil, sand and seeds. Make sure you are using the same seed as you've used for your pitch or at least a fast establishing seed. It's recommended to include pre-germinated grass seed in the mix to promote quicker establishment and ensure effective turf regeneration. 

When preparing your divot mix it's crucial to ensure that the base soil material aligns well with the root-zone of your pitch. Whether you're dealing with sand-based or natural soil pitches, a balanced blend of 50% sports sand and 50% moist topsoil is optimal. This combination provides the ideal foundation for effective divot repair and promotes healthy turf growth across different pitch types.


Importance of Removing Divots:

The removal of divots isn't merely an aesthetic concern – it's essential for preserving the integrity and safety of the rugby pitch. Here's why:

  1. Player Safety: Uneven surfaces caused by divots pose a significant risk to player safety increasing the likelihood of slips, trips and injuries during matches and training sessions. Repairing divots ensures a smoother and more predictable playing experience for players, enhancing the quality of gameplay.

  2. Grass Regeneration: By removing divots promptly, groundskeepers facilitate the regeneration of the grass, allowing it to recover and grow back into the affected areas more efficiently.


Removing Divots with an Allett Rotary Mower:


Our Uplift 86E and Uplift Petrol models are perfect for clearing up pitches after matches.... You would probably try and fork the divots first to maintain as much of the pitch as possible before doing a clean up with the rotaries.

The Allett Uplift rotary mower efficiently collects divots as it mows over the grass acting like a hoover. This saves time and effort for groundskeepers allowing them to focus on other tasks.

Check out the Allett Uplift Petrol here

Check out the Allett Uplift86E Electric mower here

                                     Photo Laura Malkin/ Allett Mowers


Other tips...

Ensure that essential practices such as deep tining, spiking and verti-cutting are diligently carried out during both spring and autumn. These practices are integral to maintaining a playing surface that remains free from compaction and effectively disrupts underlying soil layers.

Topdressing your pitch is crucial and the initial step involves aeration. By facilitating the flow of air to the roots aeration ensures that the topdressing penetrates the surface effectively. Subsequently, the turf utilises nutrients from the soil to enhance its health. A turf sward boasting a robust, deep-rooted system is less susceptible to divots compared to one with thin, unhealthy growth. These practices serve as the cornerstone of any effective turf management regimen.


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