Springbok captain John Smit is as “fit” as he has ever been and he is not overweight. This is the view of Bok conditioning coach Neels Liebel.
Speaking to the media, ahead of Smit’s 100th Test, Liebel dismissed suggestions that the Bok captain is out of shape and carrying some unwanted bulk.
Rugby 365 reports that Smit will captain the Boks against New Zealand in the historic first-ever Test in Soweto on Saturday, becoming only the second ever Bok to reach the century mark in international rugby.
However, his form – or apparent lack of form – has been the cause of much media speculation.
It has been suggested the Smit, who admitted to “bulking up” when he was converted into a tighthead prop at the end if 2008, has struggled to shed the extra kilograms since his return to hooker this year.
However, the Bok management have defended the 32-year-old.
“John Smit is as ready as ever and in good physical condition,” Liebel told a media gathering on Monday.
Liebel said data collected on the Bok captain, who has played in all three front row positions in the past two years, shows that he is in the same shape he was three years ago.
“If you look at the data, in terms of the metres he’s run and the pace he’s run at, it is really up there – in terms of what we have expected of him.
“Yes, there has been a big concern over his weight.
“However, his weigh is what it has been for the past two/three years and his fat percentage.”
Asked if there was any concerns about Smit’s fitness at all, Liebel said: “No, not at all!”
He also said that every Springbok – measured with the new GPS monitoring system introduced this year – had maintained their body fat percentage since the last measurement.
There will be those who will question this, considering the obvious bulk being carried by out-of-form scrumhalf Ricky Januarie.
“Each Monday guys get weighed and their fat percentages taken,” he said, adding: “We have a data pile going back to 2006. Bar the occasional kilogram up-or-down, nobody has gained.
“Their fat percentages have all come down since they have been with us on May 30 [this year].”
Liebel, despite defending the Boks’ fitness levels, admitted that 13 of the 20 contracted Springboks have already exceeded the amount of game time they were suppose to have played this year.
The GPS system is used to monitor players – in terms how far they run and the impact on the bodies.
Liebel said this “close monitoring” of the Boks means they know the workload each player is doing, the kilometres he runs and the volumes he is doing.
He said the average playing time per player should be between 1400 minutes to 1600 minutes per year.
“If you look at the [amount of] time of the guys have played [this year], up until the game against Australia in Brisbane, 13 of the 20 contracted players have already played more than 1700 minutes.”
That would include the Super 14 games and all the Tests the Boks have featured in.
He said the current two-week break – between the Brisbane Test and the Boks regathering in Johannesburg last week, came at the right time.
“The guys will be mentally refreshed as well.”
Liebel said there is now also a co-ordinatated conditioning strategy between the national team and franchise coaches.
“That will change from now on,” Liebel said, adding: “We had a very productive meeting with the conditioning coaches from all the franchises after the Wales Test [in June]. We discussed what would be in the player’s best interest and we’re confident that we’ve set up a good working relationship.
“In the past it wasn’t that way. Franchises have their goals and players and coaches have performance clauses that necessitate that their best players play. Now there’ll be more co-ordination in our strategy.”
The 20 contracted Springboks will miss the latter part of the Currie Cup and go on a tailored programme, designed to ensure they arrive at the 2011 World Cup in prime condition.
It may include leaving some of them at home for the year-end tour, but the call on how many and who won’t be made until after the Tri-Nations.Tweet