Durban - For the Sharks to play the style of rugby they envisage for the 2015 Currie Cup, having fit players in peak physical condition is how they believe they will be able to accomplish that.
“I haven’t been this excited about a pre-season for a long time - just being here for the pre-season, having a hand in it and a say in what’s going on,” Director of Rugby Gary Gold told Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.
Gold arrived the week before the Super Rugby campaign after finishing up his commitments in Japan, but has now had time to plan and direct the Currie Cup pre-season campaign which enters the final stretch before the tournament kicks off on August 7.
“The guys have worked really hard, I’m happy with the way it’s gone but I suppose the acid test comes on Friday night against the Lions, I’m looking forward to that,” Gold said ahead of their friendly clash at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.
Last week, the squad headed down the south coast for a pre-season camp that was just as much training as it was to build a cohesive team, many of whom will be playing for the Sharks for the first time.
“Our objective was accomplished,” Gold explained of the camp. “We spent a lot of time together, got a lot done both on and off the field and got to sweep away quite a few of the cobwebs from the Super Rugby competition.
“We had an exercise when we asked those guys who will be playing in their first Currie Cup to rise and nearly 50% of the squad stood up. It has been a big clean-out of players, so we’ve had a big emphasis on our cohesion as a group, and that was what a lot of our week away was all about. Also what we want to be about and what we have to produce.
“All teams have good players so we have to try find something different. When a team hasn’t been together for a long time, that’s the big challenge: cohesion.”
Cohesion is all about balance between the experienced, established players and the new recruits and youngsters who are looking to make a mark.
“I am happy with the balance we have, I like to think that has happened by design rather than luck, I am excited about these youngsters. We have a couple of older guys, a few who have moved on, but it’s now the time for the Khaya Majolas, the Philip van der Walts, the Wandile Mjekevus of the world to step up and take the reins of this pretty new-look Sharks team.”
While Gold doesn’t wish to make grand claims about the style of rugby they are going to play or the trophies they will win, he believes that rugby that wins games and excites the crowds requires the players to be able to execute. That means fit players who can last the distance.
“I really think we’re a lot better than what we’ve seen in the past; conditioning and fitness has been one of the key areas we’ve focused on in pre-season. We have addressed conditioning and I’m really happy.
“At the end of the day, you can have the best intentions in the world, but if you have no petrol in the engine, your car won’t run. You need to be fit enough to play the game we want to play, to defend for 80 minutes, to play a running game and hopefully score the tries we know we can score. We will have to be fit enough to do that and this is why it’s been one of the two major areas we’ve focused on.”