DURBAN – As far as anything can be certain in these unusual times, South Africa’s professional rugby teams will play each other in a weekend of friendlies on October 3 and 4 before getting down to the serious business of a domestic competition a week later.
That is how Sharks coach Sean Everitt understands it, and he says the return to action cannot come quick enough.
“There is nothing set in stone as to the exact format of the competition but it looks like the (seven) teams will play each other home and away right through until mid-January,” Everitt said.
“It will be six months since we last played a game, and I can tell you that the guys have had so much time on their hands to get running fit that they are actually fitter now than they were before the start of Super Rugby this year.”
That would make sense given that the players have effectively had a five-month pre-season in terms of doing cardio work – even in the harsh times of stage 5 of the national lockdown they had cardio equipment at their homes.
“What is interesting is that the guys that probably needed to shed some excess weight – mostly the heavier forwards – have taken the opportunity to do that,” Everitt said. “Overall, we have seen a big turnaround in conditioning.
“We have also seen a big improvement in individual skills. The guys that were a bit weak in a specific area have used the time on their hands to address it.”
But the contact facets of the game is where players across SA could make no advancement – and indeed now find themselves rusty – and are in a race against time to get themselves physically ready to play matches.
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) September 7, 2020
“We are having to phase contact in,” Everitt said after his players had started their second week of contact training yesterday. “We started with bag work, then low contact skills, before getting into mauling and scrumming, and already there are some sore bodies.
“I think what the guys are really enjoying now is being able to train in bigger groups (before contact was allowed they could only train in groups of five). The training is now more game related and the guys are loving it.”
The weather is also hotting up, but the balmy spring weather is only a mild foretaste of what is to come in a competition that will stretch across an entire summer.
“It won’t bug us at all to be playing matches in the hottest months of December and January,” Everitt said. “Normally that is when we are doing our pre-season training, so there won’t be much of a difference.”