Young girls can dare to dream big and aspire to greatness. Rene Naylor has 130 caps as part of the Springbok Rugby’s medical and management team. While Naylor is a physiotherapist, she is also a motivational speaker taking her story to girls and boys from all walks of life in South Africa that they too can aspire to be on the world’s stage and achieve their dreams.


“It’s not just coaches who are focused on performance,” said Naylor. “For any team, it’s ultimately about winning, even the medical team. I’d be very concerned if I worked in a medical team where you walked off the pitch and lost the match, and one of my colleagues comes up to me and says that we shouldn’t be worried because we didn’t sustain any injuries. I’d immediately think we didn’t have injuries because we didn’t tackle, didn’t do well in the collisions, and weren’t playing and performing. It’s still about winning, and that’s why I’ve always done my homework on what makes teams win.”

The world of elite sports requires advanced support systems. Athletes need innovative medical treatment and support to sustain high levels of performance. Naylor worked almost exclusively with rugby players from amateur to elite level for nearly three decades as a physiotherapist. She developed an injury risk profiling system through research of rugby players: this is BOKSMART. It is a programme devised from musculoskeletal tests to create injury risk profiles of players and identify injury intervention support to keep players on the field – and off the medical beds.

The Springboks’ triumph at the 2019 Rugby World Cup could be attributed to several key factors, one of which was its players’ low injury rate. That was her third Rugby World Cup with the Springboks. For the 2019 tournament, Naylor’s physiotherapy team helped to reduce injury and recovery time and increase playing time for more tries and trophies.

“Today, my vision is to bridge the gap of injury management and prevention between professional and amateur rugby teams, coupled with the will to blaze a trail in a traditionally male-dominated space,” said Naylor. “This has resulted in me being regarded as one of the foremost practitioners in sports physiotherapy globally, an accolade of that I am immensely proud. In my career, I have been fortunate enough to have the best seat in the house and take a position on the sidelines of over 100 Springbok games. I’ve also featured in a management team boasting the highest staff complement made up of women seen at a Rugby World Cup tournament – and my dedication to women empowerment and advancing sports injury prevention has not wavered.”


Her qualifications include a B.Sc. in Physiotherapy from the University of Western Cape, an Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy (OMT1) certificate and an MPhil in Sports Physiotherapy from the University of Cape Town. Naylor’s focus on injury management and prevention has achieved several awards, including the Ministerial Recognition Award for Outstanding Women in their field at the Momentum Gsport Awards 2020 and a SAMSA Honorary Award for outstanding contribution in Sports Medicine in 2018.

Naylor offers advisory and consultancy physiotherapy services, academic programming and lecturing, online fitness video productions, women’s sports advocacy, motivational speaking, and corporate engagements.


“Whilst professionally, I’m known as a physiotherapist, motivational speaker and thought leader, I’m also a mother and a woman; other ‘titles’ and responsibilities that I take very seriously,” said Naylor. “One of my most public “places of employment” is the Springbok Rugby medical team, where both of these latter roles are embraced in a family-like culture, and one in which more women than ever before were in a Rugby World Cup squad at the 2019 tournament. This is a testament to how far we have come to own our space and to marry excellence on the field with a happy and well-balanced, extended team off of it.


Naylor and Croy Physiotherapy operate in the heart of Cape Town, targeting corporate clients and sportspeople. Rene Naylor Physiotherapists in Mitchells Plain was a community service helping bridge the cost and access gaps in injury management and prevention in this previously disadvantaged community. Naylor grew up on Cape Flats and plays a leading role in challenging the norm in her community through sports and social upliftment.

“For me, challenging the norm is not a foreign concept,” said Naylor. “I have and will continue to innovate and push the boundaries in all of my spheres of influence, from medical science to female empowerment, from youth development to corporate conversations, and a whole lot more. Although I have realised many of my dreams on the global stage, I continue to pursue excellence in everything I do.

Other INNOVATE® Ecosystems