Plumtree prepares Sharks for the long haul

2012-02-02 00:00

THE Super Rugby season is long and tough, stretching all the way to the final in August, and Sharks coach John Plumtree has concentrated his pre-season preparation on the conditioning of the players.

In spite of the heat and humidity in Durban, the players have worked long hours, often training in the early morning to beat the beach weather.

The Sharks have an internal trial tomorrow evening and then face Boland and the Eastern Province Kings over the following weekends before their Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Pretoria on February 24.

Plumtree said: “I have put huge emphasis on our conditioning and the boys are looking really fit. We’ll lighten up now as we get closer to game time.

“We’ll only know after the Bulls game whether our preparation was enough or not.”

Plumtree said that in past seasons the Sharks had played in higher-profile friendly games in their build-up to Super Rugby.

“The big pre-season games haven’t worked out that well,” he said, adding that timing was important but differed from player to player.

“Some players have better pre-season preparations than others and some have better pre-season friendly matches. I hope that by the time we hit the Bulls the squad will all be firing.”

The Sharks coach said that after the trial tomorrow he would name a squad of 28 for the Boland game.

“When we go to Port Elizabeth to meet EP I will take 22 players.”

But he admitted he was far from settling on his strongest line-up.

“If you asked me who the backline would be to start against the Bulls in three weeks’ time is, I wouldn’t know. I’m not sure how healthy that is,” he added with a smile.

He said he was easing up on the hectic training.

“We’ve lightened up on the grappling, boxing and running. It’s been a pretty intense programme since Christmas and now we’re getting into more structure with driving mauls, lineouts and scrummaging.

“There will be lots more of that this week before we place players in trial teams so they can get organised.”

Next week, said Plumtree, the emphasis would be on preparing a match squad for the home Boland friendly.

Meanwhile, one player who is happy to be in the Shark Tank is former Springbok lock Steven Sykes. He is just back from Ireland with his young family, which includes a two-month-old boy.

The 27-year-old Sykes said he wanted to bring his baby back to South Africa after a stint with Leinster and doors had been opened to him.

“I’m just so happy to be back.

“The conditions are different over there in Ireland and it’s going to be nice for my son not to have to go out wearing a snow suit all the time.”

He said he had gained from his experience in Ireland, though he had been sidelined by concussion and this had frustrated him.

“I now want to start playing and contributing where I can. I’m really looking forward to the Super Rugby campaign.”

He has impressed his coach with his high level of fitness.

“I’ve been training really hard, my diet has been good and I think I’m probably in the best shape I have been in for a long while,” said Sykes. He added that he was delighted to be back training in the Durban heat rather than in the frosty climes of Leinster.

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