Johannesburg - Western Province coach Allister Coetzee believes that Richie McCaw is doing the right thing in taking a six month sabbatical from rugby next year – and reckons that South African franchises might be well advised to consider doing something similar with key players.
According to supersport.com website, it was announced earlier this week that All Black captain McCaw will sit out Super Rugby next year in order to preserve his body and prolong his career after several seasons of non-stop battery. It is understood that another key All Black, Dan Carter, has a similar provision written into his contract, with both players eager to combat the harsh physical toll of playing non-stop rugby almost all year round.
Coetzee agrees that the double round of Super Rugby derbies has made the year even tougher and more arduous, and agreed that a window is needed in the season where players can properly recuperate and recover from the physical demands of the game as well as condition themselves properly for future engagements.
And yes, it does appear that to some extent Coetzee may be prepared to put his money where his mouth is, for he admitted that he is having “to think very hard” about possibly giving players a window of rest at the start of the next Super Rugby season.
“No South African player that I am aware of has had a sabbatical written into their contracts like I understand McCaw and Dan Carter have, but it actually makes a lot of common sense,” said Coetzee after a press conference at Newlands where he had to announce the injury enforced lay-offs of two further players, Gio Aplon and Gary van Aswegen.
“I think next year is when we are going to see it (the effect of the schedule).I have always said that. We already have a lot of players out, we have seen with Australia how many players they have lost this season, but next season I think it is going to start hitting everyone unless something is done to combat it.”
Coetzee said that ideally an entire squad should be presented with a window to rest, and he did not think the suggestion that a team that gets relegated from the senior level of the Currie Cup might gain from it was so left field.
“That would mean the players who are at Super Rugby level can have a couple of much needed months off and it would certainly be of benefit,” he agreed.
But with the bosses demanding constant success in all competitions, Coetzee believes that treating the problem on an individual basis is the solution.
“Injuries in South Africa will be compounded next year. We still have an end of year tour to come and we will be battling to keep our top players fit and healthy if we as franchises don’t look at what McCaw is doing to save his career,” said Coetzee.
“I am going to assess our Springboks when they come back from the end of year tour and look at them each individually. Maybe I will look at a window to rest some of them as well. We’ve just got to make sure that we’ve got the reserves and cover for Super Rugby next year, to start the first couple of games in our campaign.”
Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers, who has been involved non-stop in Super Rugby and now international rugby through a long 2012, may be a leading candidate for a rest. It is unlikely that Coetzee will give him six months off, but he could find himself missing the first two or three games of Super Rugby, and the Stormers might be forced to use those games for match conditioning so that the players can be given a more complete break from rugby during the summer.
“We have an important meeting coming up where we are going to have to decide how we organise the off-season to ensure that the players come back next year refreshed,” said the coach.
The problem for Coetzee is that any plans to hit next season with anything less than maximum intensity first up are complicated by the fixture list.
The Sharks paid for their slow start, when they lost two away derby matches, this year, and the Stormers have exactly the same schedule next year – they start against the Bulls at Loftus and then play the Sharks in Durban. Their next game after that sees them pitted against the Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs.
“It is a difficult one,” he agreed, “there is no-one who will disagree with you that this competition is extremely tough.”
The good news for the Stormers though is that apparently Schalk Burger, who has been out of rugby all season with a knee injury, is making good progress and can be expected to start the next season feeling refreshed and hungry after his frustrating spell on the sidelines. Nizaam Carr is also expected back at the start of 2013, as is the currently injured Siya Kolisi, while Nick Koster has already returned to training.
“I just want Nick to maybe get a bit of game time in club rugby this week and also to get in some more time on the training paddock before we consider him for selection,” said Coetzee.
And then came a hint that there may be reinforcements from outside that will further boost the Stormers’ depth for 2013.
“I have a few players signing on the dotted line and will be informing you of those shortly,” he smiled.