'We've had our challenges': Proteas' conditioning coach

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Adrian le Roux (Cricket South Africa - Twitter)
Adrian le Roux (Cricket South Africa - Twitter)
  • Quinton de Kock’s SA Test side should benefit from the less punishing current daytime temperatures in Karachi.
  • Conditioning guru Adrian le Roux says the creation of a 45-player group to monitor during lockdown has helped their prep.
  • Le Roux, once assigned to India, feels the IPL has greatly aided the conditioning of their Aussie-conquering Test team.

The temperate time of year in Karachi should help South Africa to counter-balance the conditioning-related difficulties they’ve faced in the lead-up to the first Test against Pakistan at that centre from Tuesday next week.

That is the view of their acting strength and conditioning coach Adrian le Roux.

Speaking from the arid-climate city where many months of the year feature average daytime highs around 35 deg C and can soar much higher than that, he told Sport24 the scheduling of the mini-series at this (winter) time of the year would aid the tourists.

“Weather-wise it is very mild and pleasant: around the mid-20s during the day, so it is a definite plus from that perspective,” he said.

“The other hurdles in Pakistan are largely the same as anywhere else, when it comes to various restrictions, bio-bubbles and so on.”

READ | Proteas: Sign of maturity as booze 'whistle-blower' Le Roux returns

The Proteas, despite coming off a 2-0 home triumph over Sri Lanka, have played considerably less cricket than their hosts in recent months.

Pakistan have just come off a tour of New Zealand, and were also not nearly as dormant as many international rivals during the lengthy lockdown months of 2020 as they visited England in August and early September for three Tests and as many Twenty20 internationals.

Le Roux, who is filling in on the tour for incumbent Tumi Masekela (family-related leave), last occupied the role on a full-time basis for the national team between 2004 and 2007.

He had quit then - though has remained very active on a consultancy basis - after stirring up a hornets’ nest with a report to Cricket South Africa, following the 2007 World Cup, in which he said excessive use of alcohol had aggravated the cramping problem experienced by several SA players during the tournament.

The well-travelled sports scientist, who has also previously worked with India, said there had been “a few challenges (in conditioning) over the last few months” for the Proteas for pandemic-related reasons.

“Luckily we had created a 45-player group some time back, comprising both Proteas and high-performance squad members, to monitor very closely: we had to be ready, even during the time when there was complete uncertainty over when we would next see international play.

“The bowlers presented a special challenge; they need a quite specific, chronic workload to ensure their (physical preparedness for the demands of Tests).

“Pacemen are always high-risk players for injuries; they need to have sent down a certain number of balls before entering a Test match ... that was challenging in Covid times.

“Intensity goes up by 10 to 15 percent when you are in competition; it is trickier when you (are not) … you need to simulate that intensity.

“We’ve done it well, really, and still trying to improve in that respect. The whole Covid thing has been a challenge for sport in general the world over: what are you actually preparing for?

“But it is better now with rosters up and running; you know what lies ahead.

“The start of the 4-Day Franchise Series in November was good for us - players were either getting good overs or (runs) under the belt, or at worst having proper access again to training facilities.”

Le Roux, who served the Indian national team in the early 2000s and has also been active in the Indian Premier League (IPL), believes the latter tournament has “helped a lot” fitness-wise with India’s enormously improved competitiveness in countries like Australia.

They have just beaten the Baggy Greens 2-1 away in a four-Test series, despite a raft of injuries, to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

“When IPL got going, lots of foreign trainers went into their franchise system; academies were created … the players benefited, and now Indian conditioning experts have come on the scene, too.

“They’re a well-prepared (Test) side ... I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’ve stolen a march over everyone in conditioning terms, but at very least drawn level with the best ones in that area.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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