Durban - The Sharks’ pre-season training for the 2014 Super Rugby competition is well under way at Kings park as the bulk of the squad get put through their paces, reports Sharks website
editor Michael Marnewick.
With the Springboks now on official leave until early January, the rest of the Sharks squad have returned from a post Currie Cup break and are now hard at work from both a skills and conditioning perspective as they look to translate their high hopes into delivery.
“The guys are extremely excited and they’ve come back showing a lot of enthusiasm after their two-and-a-half week break,” explains backline coach Sean Everitt.
“We didn’t expect that level of excitement, so it bodes well for us and has made training easier. They have worked extremely hard over the last two weeks and the focus at training has been rugby-related, not just on conditioning and the guys have really enjoyed that.”
Eevritt admits that it is a new perspective on pre-season training with on-field conditioning taking on a greater emphasis.
“This year, our pre-season has been different; in the past there was a belief that the players should be freshened up so the ball is left out of training and the guys concentrate mainly on conditioning with a few skills blocks in-between. This year, however, it’s more skill and unit focused. With the new coach coming in and the new structures that have been put in place, we have the time to do that, so it has been different.” Jake White
, the Director of Rugby, explained previously that he had no definitive ideas on which players had a claim to their jersey based on historic performances and this sentiment is echoed by Everitt.
“That’s how every season should start, I don’t think a coach should have any preconceived ideas about any player. This way everyone starts with a clean slate and they are all vying for positions. But at this stage of training, we’re more skills-focussed, trying to improve them and make them more accurate in the roles they perform.”
Analysis has identified which areas they will look to dominate next year, and he explains that the breakdown is one of them.
“We’ve put a lot of work into the breakdown since we started pre-season training, that’s a big area of concern in the modern game. There are more breakdowns than any other phase of play, so it’s extremely important, especially with the referees blowing players off their feet and sealing off the ball. So we’ve worked hard there, to be as accurate as possible. But at the same time, we’re working on general skills, handling, decision-making - those kinds of things.
“Obviously training without the Springboks yet is not the perfect situation to be in, but the players need their rest and the reality of the situation dictates how they structure their pre-season training in terms of personnel.
“The Springboks have had a long season this year,” he admits. “We mustn’t forget that during the June break, they didn’t have an opportunity to rest, so they have been on the go, flat out all year. They came straight back into the Currie Cup without a break after the Rugby Championship and then straight into the end of year tour.
So they deserve a break and I’m sure they will feel that they need one too. But obviously we look forward to getting them back in January and hopefully then the youngsters can help show the seniors the ropes when they return.”
And what of their goals for the season ahead?
“We’ve spoken about where we want to be in the Super Rugby competition and we believe that we are a franchise that needs to compete for the title, not just make up the numbers. We certainly want to be there in the final - that’s our goal otherwise we wouldn’t be playing. So we will do everything it takes to try and achieve those goals.”