Vodacom Super 14

'Bring on high-octane game'

2009-05-13 11:02
Dean Mumm (File)
Dean Mumm has invited the Lions to "have a go" at trying to sap the reserves of the Waratahs in the high altitude of Johannesburg with a hard and fast start to their game on Friday.

The in-form Waratahs second-rower says his side will be ready for a frenetic game pace from the kick-off at Coca-Cola Park - formerly known as Ellis Park - in the 1753-metre altitude of Johannesburg.

The Waratahs, Mumm says, showed they can handle such an offensive in the first of two wins of their three-match tour of South Africa against the Cheetahs, even if the altitude there was lower at 1363m.

Mumm, who has been hitting his straps in the back end of the Super 14 tournament, has learned to embrace rather than be intimidated by such historically rich and imposing stadia such as Coca-Cola Park.

"Johannesburg is an interesting place to play," he says. "Ellis Park is one of the formidable stadiums."

The Waratahs lineout general also says too much is made of playing at high altitude. And the best way to deal with it, he says, is to accept it as an extra challenge and not to panic when its effects strike.

"You have to treat the altitude and stadium with a level of excitement and a little bit of difference.

"If you played every game in the world at sea level, then it would get a little boring.

"You have to treat this as something different and take confidence form the fact that [against the Cheetahs] we did reasonably well and finished strongly, get confidence from that and get excited."

Mumm understands why altitude-adapted teams like the Lions and Cheetahs might opt to play a high-octane brand of game early, to "sap us out".

"They will be very aware of playing at altitude," he says. "That is what they do. They will probably go very hard at us early. But that's fine. They can have a go at that."

Mumm says the biggest danger from playing at high altitude is not the drain on physical reserves but on sharpness of mind under duress, and warns that players need to remain calm when it takes place.

"You have to be aware of that, aware that if clarity of thought goes it might happen for a couple of minutes and that you can bring yourself back. Be aware of it. Know you can push through it."

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey believes the secret to how his side has learned to cope with altitude is "probably the fact we didn't talk about altitude. That hasn't been an issue for us. We haven't raised it."

But he concedes there is a purpose behind the program of their tour. While they arrived in Pretoria six days before the Cheetahs game, they will fly to Johannesburg to play the Lions two days before.

"The research we have looked at shows that unless you can be there for 10 days, you are better off to be there for two days," Hickey says. "So that is why we will go [to Johannesburg] on Wednesday."

Hickey also expects the Lions will seek to break them early, even if their game is naturally "fairly up-tempo".

Hickey says: "I suppose part of their strategy possibly could be to keep the tempo up early and hope that in the last 20 minutes the team starts to feel the effects of altitude a little."

While several players sat out training on Monday, the Waratahs named an unchanged 22-man squad. The line-up includes the two players promoted when Rob Horne withdrew from the Sharks game with a hamstring flare-up: Peter Playford (wing) and Sam Norton-Knight (bench).


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