Breyton Paulse

A test of staying power

2011-04-28 10:08
Breyton Paulse
Breyton Paulse

From the outset of the Super Rugby season it was clear that under the expanded format it might not be a case of the best or classiest team winning the competition but the one with the greatest staying power, mental strength and depth in the squad.

Now that we have just passed the halfway stage it is becoming increasingly apparent that those initial impressions were on the money.

Injuries to key players are starting to play a role in dictating the direction the competition takes, and that is likely to become even more so in the remaining two and a half months as the work-load starts to take toll on tired and bruised bodies.

The tricky part now for coaches is that we have now also reached a stage where on top of injuries they also need to consider rotation in selection as a means to ensuring that those players who are currently fit and healthy manage to stay that way.

It’s going to require a tricky balancing act and maybe the Crusaders got it wrong the other day when they played against the Highlanders.  Although the Highlanders have been one of the better teams this year and are certainly strong contenders in the New Zealand conference, few would have expected them to win their south island derby match in Nelson.

Yet not only did they win, they won quite comfortably. Asides from having players like Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Sam Whitelock, to name just a few, out injured, the Crusaders coaching staff also felt that Sonny Bill Williams and Sean Maitland had reached the point where they needed to rest. So they gambled on putting them on the bench, and it back-fired as those two influential players were sorely missed on a day when so many other stars were also out.

But the Crusaders are one of the franchises in the competition who do boast good depth, and what the game might also have told us is the importance of pitching on the day. We saw it in the first half of the competition, when the Cheetahs shocked the Waratahs – any team can beat any other on a given day if the focus is not always there.

That is where the mental strength comes in. It demands a lot of a player psychologically for him to be expected to remain switched on week after week for four or five months in a competition as demanding and as tough as Super Rugby is.

It is another reason why players need to be given a break every now and then by their coaches.

Before they took their bye the Stormers had played eight games in succession and were starting to look as though the physical and mental demands were catching up with them. Although the Reds played well against them, it did appear that the Stormers had what many would have considered an expected off day after winning six matches in a row over as many weeks.

They begin the second half of their campaign after their bye against the Sharks this weekend and it looks at the moment that they will be playing this massive game without Peter Grant, who has been so influential for them this year at flyhalf. It is going to be interesting to see how they go without him now that Gary van Aswegen, who was the back-up for most of the early part of the season, is also out with injury.

Fortunately the Stormers do have most of their other big star players coming back, but like the Crusaders are at the moment, and the Sharks did during the month when Patrick Lambie was out, they are going to be subjected to a test of depth in a key area at this most important juncture of the season.

The team that wins the Cape Town game will be in a strong position to win the South African conference for we mustn’t forget that although the Stormers are three points ahead of their coastal rivals, they have already had their second bye.
This effectively means the Sharks have a guaranteed four still to come, which means that if they go level this week by beating the Stormers they will effectively be ahead in the race.

It is an exciting time, and while the Reds look to have wrapped up the Australian conference, the other two conferences are intriguing, with the Blues, Crusaders and Highlanders all in strong contention in New Zealand while in South Africa it will be interesting to see if the Bulls will make the necessary adjustments to their game as they try to chase down the Stormers and the Sharks.

The Chosen One award this week has to go to John Smit who proved his mettle and his strong leadership ability by bouncing back from the criticism of his slow start to the season with a great performance for the Sharks against the Hurricanes. Welcome back John, you are an important part of the World Cup challenge so it was great to see you make such a strong statement.
Powerade Weekly Hydration Tip:

Drinking a sports drink, like Powerade, after a match helps your body to recover more quickly after a strenuous physical activity.

VIDEO: Breyton chats to Sport24

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Read more on:    super15  |  breyton paulse  |  john smit

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2016-10-20 07:39

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