Durban - The Sharks have placed a huge
emphasis on their fitness, and not just so they are equipped to play a
high-paced, action-packed style of running rugby which results in tries and
brings the supporters to their feet.
It has been emphasised on numerous
occasions that they plan to play attacking rugby. It’s no secret that they
embrace a style which the team enjoys playing and the spectators pay money to
watch, but there is an important by-product to being fit.
In the last 10 days, at least four matches
have been lost by the team ahead on the scoreboard, before losing in the last
play of the game. The Springboks are one
example when the Wallabies broke their hearts in the dying moments of the game.
While Bok coach Heyneke Meyer refused to blame fitness for his team’s loss, he
did admit that they would be working hard on fitness levels ahead of the Rugby
“Fitness and concentration go
hand-in-hand,” assistant coach Ryan Strudwick told Sharks website editor
“You can concentrate longer if you’re
fitter, so we’re working hard on our fitness. Mark Steele and Thulani Nteta
have done a really big fitness block in the last four weeks and will continue
“You find that if you’re a fitter team, you
concentrate better and you make better decisions. So that is a major aspect,
although experience also obviously comes into play as well.”
The Sharks’ pre-season has been broken into
a six week block with the focus of the first four weeks mainly on fitness along
with a big emphasis also placed on defence. “We have made a few changes to our
structure so we will look to play a little more attacking rugby than we have in
the past,” he explained. “We will also have a kicking and defensive element to
it all. But the main thing is to go out there and have fun and score some
That’s exactly what fans want to hear - and
see - but ultimately a team needs to build a platform from which to launch and
as forwards coach, a big part of his work is to ensure the backs are provided
with quality ball from the forward pack.
“The team is pretty well-balanced, with a
strong backline and we’re hoping some of the youngsters will come through and
add to the strengths of our forward pack. When you have strong backs, you need
to get good ball for them, that’s our aim.”
While the pack has a duty to provide front
foot ball to the backs, sometimes they themselves have an attacking role to
play and the Sharks will have plenty of mobile forwards, particularly in the
“We have a good loose trio and we will
probably play some of our loose forwards at lock for added mobility, although
our locks aren’t exactly slow anyway.
The running game is always going to be there but it just depends on what
areas of the field we are.”
What Strudwick means is not playing running
rugby for the sake of running rugby, but being clever about when the attack is
on and when it is more prudent to kick.
“Everyone wants to see tries, our
supporters want to be entertained, but at the same time, you have to get that
fine balance between running and defensive kicking,” said Strudwick.
This week, the team head down to the KwaZulu-Natal
south coast for a camp with the main focus on the rugby but also plenty of
“It’s good to have new blood in the team,
these guys always seem to spark energy and inject a lot of enthusiasm amongst
the team because they want to impress, so they train extra hard and the other
guys seem to lift their game around them. It’s always great to have them on board,
we have a few youngsters from the Under-21s to join us on the camp which is
also going to make a difference because they also bring enthusiasm and energy.”