With the Cell C Sharks players having returned from their post Currie Cup break for the Super Rugby preseason block, head coach Robert du Preez has explained that skills, strengthening and conditioning are three of the main areas they will be focusing on over the next few months.
Du Preez presented a rueful smile as he admitted that he’s had no break between the Curie Cup competition and yesterday’s start of the team’s preseason in preparation for next year’s Super Rugby competition. Clearly a lot of planning has been taking place as he and his coaching staff plot the way forward, not only for Super Rugby 2017, but beyond as they look to fulfil the team’s potential.
He explained that a lot of time has be spent plotting their immediate future and more. The preseason will be seven weeks long before they break on the 15th of December until the new year and they’ll then return in the first week of January.
“There’s going to be a big emphasis on strengthening the guys, and there’s also a massive focus on their aerobic fitness which we feel has been lacking, especially with the way we want to play,” he explained.
His rugby philosophy is not necessarily only attack-oriented, but he certainly believes that players want to run rather than defend. “Perhaps there’s been too much emphasis on defence over the last 15 years, but players prefer to play with ball in hand and play rugby than tackle the whole time.”
This has been a busy week with the introduction of new training methods and philosophies, but also the newcomers to the group.
The signing of French international Clement Poitrenaud may have come as something of a surprise when the announcement was made, but he has a specific role to play, as envisaged by the coach.
“We have a bunch of young fullbacks and to a large extent, an inexperienced backline if you take Pat out of it, although he will be back for Super Rugby, but Clement is a guy with a huge amount of experience and his first objective is to get into the side, to be the first choice fullback, and then secondly to mentor the young players.
“We’ve had great success with French players in the past and what I really like about him is that he’s spent his entire career with Toulouse where he was born and bred, played with one club all his life and played 47 Tests for France. He comes with massive experience, he’s married, settled and speaks good English; I think he’s going to be great for us.”
There have not been wholesale changes as far as playing personnel goes, but this is a good thing. All great teams often start from a particular base, sometimes a low one at that. But as they spend more and more time together, seasons even, so the consistency in playing style and the people involved starts to pay dividends.
The core of the Cell C Sharks squad remains intact and with most of the players now having come through two or three campaigns together, and some of them a lot more (think Pat Lambie, Beast Mtawarira, Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane, Keegan Daniel, etc), there is every reason to be optimistic about the team’s fortunes.
“I believe the Sharks team is in a good position from a depth point of view,” said du Preez.
“We have some competition for places which is always healthy, but we must also understand that it will take time to develop some of the young guys into the players they need to be.”