Pretoria - New South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer will make finding common ground with Super Rugby franchises and northern hemisphere clubs over conditioning of their Springbok players his priority, he said on Monday.
Meyer was appointed on Friday as successor to Peter de Villiers and is tasked with rebuilding a team that has lost stalwarts in captain John Smit and vice-captain Victor Matfield, while the international futures of players such as Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp and Francois Steyn are in doubt because they are based overseas.
This year's Super Rugby competition runs from February through to August, with Meyer's first assignment sandwiched in the middle as England visit South Africa for three tests in June.
"Super Rugby is going to put pressure on. All of the franchises want to win, I'm realistic enough to know that, so it's a big challenge," Meyer told reporters. "But it's also the first year that there are three Tests in the middle of the competition and there is no successful method to go back and see what works.
"It's a fresh challenge and I would like to have a national planning session. I'm on good terms with most of the franchise coaches and I want to see if we can come to a win/win situation, especially in terms of conditioning, which will require a big step up.
"I also want to see if it's possible for me to go overseas and speak to the players there. I've spoken to a lot of agents to see who's available and who's not available, but we have some quality players overseas.
"The conditioning of the players in the northern hemisphere is one of my concerns. The Heineken Cup is a very tough competition and a lot of the players are conditioned very well, but they peak at different times and I have a few ideas I need to discuss with them and the clubs, again to see if we can come to a win/win situation."
Meyer stressed that it was also up to the players to show mental toughness in the face of playing schedules that have become more and more demanding.
"We need to rotate players better at Super Rugby level, but I'm also a big believer in mental toughness and the more the players hear and read about burnout, the more they believe it.
"We can't make excuses about conditioning, we need to plan and manage our players better.
The former Bulls director of rugby said his other immediate task was to study current rugby trends and make sure the Springboks adapt to the changes in the game.
"I've studied a lot of rugby lately and the game changes every six months with the new law interpretations. If you're not adapting to those changes, you're going to be left behind," he said.
"The one definite thing that has to change is our conditioning. The guys are playing much more rugby and the game is much quicker; most Tests are lost in the last 10 minutes, so you need athletic players."