Cape Town - Western Province Rugby's contracted players have finished the first phase of their pre-season training programme, with the players now set to take a break over the festive season ahead of the DHL Stormers' 2014 Super Rugby assault.
A big squad of players - including eight of the 2014 WP Rugby Institute intake - have been put through their paces in recent weeks under the watchful eyes of the senior coaching staff and, of course, Stephan du Toit (the Stormers' head of strength and conditioning).
Now the players will take a deserved break - officially termed a "maintenance phase of conditioning" - before reconvening on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.
The likes of Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen
and Cheslin Kolbe will all rejoin training on January 7 (2014), with an official training squad to be named later that week ahead of the team's pre-season camp in Hermanus from Monday, January 13 until Saturday, January 18.
"It's the fourth year in a row that we will be heading to Hermanus," Stormers coach Allister Coetzee
on Wednesday, the first day of the players' break.
"It's become a big part of our pre-season preparations and we look forward to having our Springboks back, the likes of Duane Vermeulen
and Jean de Villiers (to name just two), after their extended period of active rest.
"The past three weeks have been great for us (coaches), as it's given us an opportunity to look at every single contracted player in the union," added Coetzee.
"The eight (young) institute players have also been part of our training, which has been valuable for everyone - given that they've just finished school and we've been able to look at them closely and also broaden their conditioning base at the same time. It's been great to expose those young players to the culture of excellence within the Stormers group and also to show them what it takes to push for senior selection with WP Rugby.
"Other players like Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi
, Louis Schreuder and Gio Aplon - some of whom did not play or play a lot on the Springbok tour - have been back at training for two weeks and it's also been good to see them again, in particular Frans, who picked up an injury on the Bok tour."
Looking back at the past three weeks, Coetzee explained further: "Pre-season training is a tough part of the season, so we have mixed things up a bit - taking the players away from the HPC at least once a week and giving them activities at the beach, on a wine farm; it's all about making it more enjoyable.
"The players that have been here training deserve this break over the festive season, but they will have to do a bit of work too and maintain their fitness during this period of active rest - as we also like to call it."
The Stormers will play their first pre-season match against the Bulls in Polokwane on Saturday, February 1 (2014), followed by clashes against the Kings and Boland on successive weekends.
Their 2014 Super Rugby season kicks off against the Lions - in Johannesburg - on Saturday, February 22.Stormers pre-season fixtures:Saturday, February 1:
Bulls v Stormers, Peter Mokaba Stadium (Polokwane) - 17:00Friday, February 7:
Kings v Stormers, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Port Elizabeth) - 19:00Saturday, February 15:
Boland v Stormers, Boland Stadium (Wellington) - kick-off TBC