Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - With the Springbok coach having said he has settled on the composition of most of his team for the Rugby World Cup, it would be understandable if some of the top players held back a bit and “managed” themselves during the extended Vodacom Super Rugby season.
After all, the World Cup only comes around every four years and like athletes and swimmers do with the Olympics, it is what all the players build towards. One injury can scupper that dream and all the hard work, and with seven months of almost non-stop rugby ahead before the beginning of the World Cup – Super Rugby goes straight into the Tri-Nations – there is plenty window of opportunity for injuries to happen.
But Springbok flank Schalk Burger does not see the extended competition leading to a situation where players try to conserve themselves. He also says that while the World Cup may be in the back of many minds, the possibility of being injured is something that players learn to live with, and it won't impact on their approach to rugby in 2011.
“Injuries can happen at any time and it is something that players learn to live with during their careers,” said Burger, who will lead the Stormers in their first match of the new Super season against the Lions at Newlands on Saturday.
“I sat and watched most of the games that were played last weekend and I don’t think there was any evidence of players holding back or trying to conserve themselves. Most of the games were played at 100 miles an hour and the players were clearly putting in a lot of effort."
However Burger does agree that the approach to this year’s competition is going to have to be different to in previous years. For him, the onus is on the team managements to get their management of resources right and thus make it possible for the players to perform at their optimum as often as they can.
“This competition used to be a sprint, but now it is definitely a marathon. That means there does have to be a change in approach, you can’t just expect to sprint the whole way and if you do you will be in big trouble. What needs to happen is that there has to be a lot more rotation in selection. The players have to be managed during the competition so they don’t get put at risk.”
Burger is confident that the Stormers have the extended squad that can deal with the arduous campaign, which will endure through to July if the Stormers emulate their achievement of last season and make the final.
“It’s very exciting the way the systems seem to be working in the Cape producing excellent youngsters who are capable of making the graduation up to Super Rugby level and it has a refreshing effect on the rest of the squad when the new guys come in,” said Burger.
The Stormers on Wednesday selected five players who were playing age-group rugby last year or the year before into their match day squad of 22 for the Lions match – lock Rynhardt Elstadt, flyhalf Gary van Aswegen and wing Danie Poolman will all start the Newlands game while hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni and prop Frans Malherbe will make their Super Rugby debuts off the bench.