Breyton Paulse

No lack of physicality

2011-03-01 15:57
Breyton Paulse
Breyton Paulse

In the build-up to the Super Rugby kick-off everyone was saying how the expanded competition would be a marathon and not a sprint, but judging from the first two weeks it has had no negative impact on the physicality or the intensity with which the players have approached the games.

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If anything, the extension of the competition to include the extra derby matches and to last another month and a half has had a positive effect in that it has clearly motivated the franchises to have their players better conditioned than ever before. The superb all-round conditioning and fitness of the players has been one of the most noticeable features of the opening two rounds.

In all the sides the guys look really well conditioned, and whereas in previous years the first weeks were often marked by stop-start rugby, this has not been the case this season. In some of the games we have seen nearly two and a half minutes of continuous play, with attacks attacking towards 20 phases and beyond.

You have to be supremely fit to sustain play for that long, and it is a credit to the conditioning staffs of all the franchise teams that this is able to happen. We have only just completed the second week and already the teams are looking fit and sharp enough to consistently produce some entertaining rugby that will keep the crowds satisfied.

Overall the new format is a positive in that since the start of Super Rugby the derbies have been the matches that have been the most keenly contested, the most physical and, perhaps most importantly, the clashes that most appeal to the public in terms of bringing people through the turnstiles.

But from Bok coach Peter de Villiers’ viewpoint the new format must be a nightmare as already we have seen more blood flow than is usually the case and already the national coach also faces a few injury problems. As expected, the South African derbies have been more physical than the overseas games, and in time this could prove problematic for the Springboks.

The coaches are really going to have to manage their players well during the Super Rugby season if they want to reach the business end of the competition in July with all their best players still standing and feeling refreshed enough to give it a full go in the knock-out stages.

As far as all this relates to the South African World Cup chances later in the year, a lot will hinge on how well De Villiers works with the various local franchise coaches and conditioning personnel. He needs to be clear on everything he wants and expects from the franchise coaches, and they need to understand what he wants.

Jake White was very good in communicating what he wanted and it helped us hugely in our 2007 World Cup challenge, and Peter needs to do the same. It is crucial that there is buy-in from all parties on when some players need resting.

So far it is early days in the competition but one of the noteworthy aspects has been the way some of the teams that struggled in previous years have acquitted themselves. Even though they lost both games, the Lions showed they will be no push-overs this season as they were unlucky to go down to last year’s finalists, the Bulls and the Stormers.

It is the style of rugby that really impresses, and their way of playing is now coming through, which is a credit to their coach, John Mitchell. The Highlanders also look like they are finally moving forward again after a long lean period. They used to be one of the top challengers in the early days of the competition, and it will be great if they can get back there again.

Of the South African sides, the Sharks look the most organised, but it’s way too early to predict which way the conference will go as a lot can happen between now and July.

The Chosen One this week is the Melbourne Rebels for confounding the critics by scoring their first ever Super Rugby win in a match where they hardly had any ball to play with.

Finally, it would be remiss of me after all the hours I have spent in their beautiful city not to send my condolences to the people of Christchurch for their suffering over the past week. My sympathy to all those affected by the tragedy.

Breyton Paulse is a former Springbok player
and is the Powerade "Chosen One" expert columnist

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    super rugby  |  breyton paulse

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