The Sharks threw themselves back into their first pre-season training routines of the year on Monday as they began preparing for the imminent Super 14, which kicks off in mid-February.
After such a successful 2008, some celebratory indulgence during their brief vacation may have been expected, but the players looked as mean and lean as ever, writes Craig Lewis for IOL.
“The guys have obviously put the work in over Christmas which is really encouraging,” coach John Plumtree agreed. “They also worked hard before Christmas and it has been good to see the Bok players coming back in good nick as well.”
A squad of 34 players were put through their paces yesterday and Plumtree said he was pleased with the depth and potential that was available in the squad.
“I’m really pleased with what we have here. There’s competition for lots of spots and that’s healthy. If players want to secure a starting berth they will have to play really well. There will be a certain amount of rotation in a few positions but at this stage we just want to build things up and work on a few things during our pre-season training.”
Compared to this time last year, when several World Cup stars were plying their trade abroad and a number of new signings were still finding their feet, this is a seemingly far more “settled” Sharks squad.
“We have quite a lot of continuity from the Currie Cup which is great,” Plumtree admitted. “There is a settled look about us but it’s a blank page now. We need to start again and this is the beginning for us.”
However, there was one prominent new face among the group and that was of Australian Andrew Johns, widely regarded as one of the greatest rugby league players of all time. Johns will be with the team for a week, helping with kicking, catching and a few other specifics.
Newly recruited Super 14 assistant coach Chris Boyd was also in the thick of things.
“We’re always looking to evolve what we do,” Plumtree said. “We never stand still. Obviously having Chris here gives us a few new ideas and Andrew Johns is here and has brought in some different stuff that we’re working on as well.”
Plumtree revealed that the only real injury concern at the moment surrounded lock Albert van den Berg who is suffering from a shoulder injury that could see him miss the start of the Super 14. Flank Jacques Botes and hooker Bismarck du Plessis are nursing a groin and hamstring injury respectively but are hopeful of being available for the Sharks’ opening Super 14 match against the Stormers on Valentines Day.
The Sharks will take part in a unique warm-up match on January 24 when they come up against the Cheetahs in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, before confronting the Bulls at the Absa Stadium in their final friendly on February 4.Tweet