Stormers guru: Kiwis work harder at their skills
Cape Town - Stormers skills coach Paul Feeney believes South African rugby players have the skills but do not work as hard as their New Zealand counterparts.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck challenged Feeney, a former Blues and Auckland coach, to find some differences between South African and New Zealand players and it didn't take him long to come up with some answers.
Feeney believes the Kiwis are willing to put in plenty of personal extras after training, essentially being more professional.
"SA players are as skilful as New Zealanders‚ just look at how athletic the players in the Stormers backline are, and look at their footwork‚" Feeney told the TimesLIVE website.
"Teams in New Zealand do not have more X-factor players than the South African teams have in their ranks."
But Feeney believed South African players needed to get into working harder and longer, practicing said skills “hundreds and hundreds of times”.
"It's all about repetition and execution‚ and making sure players have the confidence to make decisions," he continued.
Fleck says the addition of Feeney to the Stormers coaching staff has resulted in a greater emphasis in skills development.
“Skills was a major focus for us, hence Paul Feeney joining us,” Fleck told the Stormers’ official website earlier this week.
“He has had many a session, where he up-skilled the players - not only in catching and passing, but more so vision and decision-making, and communication.
“Everything is in line to becoming a better team, we want to help the players become more natural in their skills and conditioning, that it is not hard work but that everything becomes second nature,” Fleck explained.
While conditioning will always be an important, Fleck added that the focus has been on making the most of their physicality by improving their combat skills.
“We certainly feel that there are parts of our fitness that we can improve on. I don’t think it is a case of being running fit, it is about being a little bit more accurate in certain aspects of our fitness.
“Another major point of focus for us was our combat, we needed to physically prepare players for one-on-one situations and getting that hard edge back into our game.
“South African players are big and strong but need to be able to use their physicality a little bit smarter and be more comfortable in those dark spaces."
The Capetonians were in Hermanus for a training camp last week and will play their first match of the year on January 28, when they travel to Zimbabwe to tackle the Cheetahs in Harare.
This will be followed by a clash with franchise partners South Western Districts in George on February 4, before concluding their preparations for Super Rugby with a match against the Lions at Newlands on February 11.
They start their season proper at home against the Bulls on Saturday, February 25.