Durban - The style of rugby that balances defence with
attack is a style the Sharks players have embraced themselves. Not because they
have to, but because they really want to.
One such player is Philip van der Walt who is ‘enjoying’ his
first Super Rugby pre-season with the Durbanites, having joined the side ahead
of the Currie Cup midway through last year.
‘Enjoying’ is possibly a bad choice of word, given the rigorous
and strenuous programme the players endure as they build a platform of skills,
ability, style, fitness and conditioning ahead of next year’s competition.
But everyone knows what is necessary, and they all buy into
the effort they need to put in.
“So far it’s been great, it has been different with the new
coaches, but I think we’ve gone along very well so far and the guys are working
really hard,” he told the Sharks’ official website.
One thing the players can’t get away from, and it’s
something the new players in particular find the hardest to deal with, is
Durban’s relentless and energy-sapping heat and humidity.
“You have to adapt, you try plan around it and sometimes you
just have to work your way through it,” he says. “And if you do the hard yards
through the worst of the conditions, I believe you’ll be better prepared for
playing in those conditions during the season because you’re used to them and
the other teams aren’t.”
Although this is his first Super Rugby pre-season programme
with the Sharks and he can’t compare differences to previous years, what he is
able to identify as a crucial factor is the commitment from everyone.
“There is a lot of passion shown,” he explains, “and for me,
that’s important. Not only from the players but also the coaches. And it’s
contagious which is good because the pre-season can become long and very tough
but you know you’re preparing yourself for something great and to have people
helping you, people who are passionate, that makes it so much easier.
“There has been huge attention to detail, especially in
terms of improving our attack and defence which is just as important and then
in finding that balance which, in this era of the game, is crucial.”
He adds that working with Robert du Preez and Sean Everitt
as the attacking coaches has been a new approach. “I’ve found Robert a very
approachable coach which is nice. He knows what he wants but he’s also a keen
listener, he wants to know what input you have as a player.”
While there will be times when the team turns it on in attack,
and others when they adopt a more prudent style - it’s all about playing the
conditions, territory and opposition - the ultimate aim is when they have the
ball, not to give it away unnecessarily.
“For sure, it’s always nice to get your hands on the ball
and to be part of a team that people enjoy watching,” he adds. “We’re all very
competitive and when you have to defend to get the ball back, once you get it
back, you don’t want to give it back to them easily; that becomes a long day at
“We’re looking forward to the season and I believe that with
the players we have, we will be able to play some really good rugby.”