Alistair Hargreaves

From planning to performance

2011-05-17 15:15
Alistair Hargreaves (File)
Alistair Hargreaves

With the Stormers upset defeat to the Chiefs this past weekend, the gates have been thrown wide-open in the race for Super Rugby playoff places.

The Cape franchise’s misfortune has left the Sharks knocking on the door, now just one point adrift of the side that has proved the benchmark for South African teams this season.

This weekend the Stormers travel to Auckland to tackle the table-topping Blues. It won’t be an easy task and although fully capable of upsetting their hosts, they will have to play extremely well if they are to come away with four points.

All this does is put even more emphasis on our mouth-watering derby at Kings Park at 19:10 on Saturday evening. 

The Sharks could be playing for the top spot in the South African conference, and the Bulls, hungrier than ever, are desperate to win in order to keep their hopes alive of defending their Super Rugby crown.

But what does this all mean in the greater scheme of the competition? Does it affect preparation and how? The job for us players in a week as vital as this is to channel the nerves and excitement into positive and constructive preparation.

One cannot get carried away with what bearing the result will have on the competition. We focus on the 'controllables' and place emphasis on making sure every single detail has been thought of in the build up to this classic clash.

Mondays and Tuesdays are busy days at Sharks headquarters and consist of a plenty of meetings and planning sessions regarding the upcoming fixture. In between gym and field sessions, groups of players meet to discuss specific areas of the game in which they specialize.

Many meetings are held in our video analysis room, where you will find front rowers discussing scrum time, locks talking lineouts, and backs… well who knows what?

All these sessions culminate in two team meetings that are presented by the coaching staff. In these meetings, we try to determine trends displayed by our opponents, as well as threats they pose and opportunities that exist for us.

These discussions inevitably result in us plotting a specific blueprint for the weekend’s fixture. All players are encouraged to contribute to these sessions and many constructive discussions are held in order to find a place where the players and coaches reach a consensus as to what approach should be employed for the fixture.

After all, ultimately the players have to put the plan into action out on the park. It is therefore vital that each player understands his role and buys into the team philosophy.

After our much-coveted Wednesday off, Thursday sees us putting our gameplan into practice out on the training field. This session focuses not entirely on intensity, but more specifically on accurate execution of offensive and defensive plays.

By this late stage of the week, the ante is upped markedly and we are hard on each other, as we expect nothing but the best. When we pull together at the end of a Thursday session, each player needs to be ready for the weekend’s encounter, as all that remains is a light captain’s practice on Friday.

This week’s preparation will be no different to any other. Naturally the Bulls pose certain threats that no other team does, and play a style of rugby that has seen them triumph on many an occasion.

Our task is to treat them like any other team coming to the Shark tank.

We have to ensure that the hype and excitement that comes hand in hand with a fixture of this nature does not throw us off our primary objective: To execute a plan that has been painstakingly constructed through hours of hard, behind the scenes work.

If we are to come out victors on Saturday, we have to be passionate, aggressive, and determined. But even more importantly, we have to be accurate and clinical and put into play all aspects we have worked so hard on in practice.

Alistair Hargreaves was educated at Durban High School and captained the SA Schools side in 2004. Besides being a stalwart in the Sharks' second row, he's also played two Tests for the Springboks.

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