As the days and weeks drag on it is becoming increasingly difficult for some of this country’s rugby players to stay motivated and upbeat.
JOHANNESBURG – As the days and weeks drag on it is becoming increasingly difficult for some of this country’s rugby players to stay motivated and upbeat.
The suspension of Super Rugby, among other competitions, has left many of the players in South Africa at an all-time low. And with there being no end in sight and lockdown still in place, Lions coach Cash van Rooyen has admitted his players are feeling low.
“To be honest, I can feel that the last two to three weeks the general energy from the guys was slightly lower,” said Van Rooyen.
The players are still unable to train in groups or in gyms, even with the national lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus set to shift to level three from Monday (June 1), the Super Rugby teams in New Zealand and Australia are close to returning to action.
New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams are currently preparing for a return to play in two weeks’ time – in a locally-arranged domestic competition – but in South Africa the players and coaches are still being asked to stay at home.
“But while the energy of the players is lower (than before), as soon as we get going in meetings, the chatter picks up again,” said Van Rooyen.
But if his players were feeling a little down, he said he was still in good spirits. “To be honest, I haven’t really been negative at any stage. I see every day as an opportunity to improve myself and the team.”
Right now players across the country are following training programmes set up by the respective strength and conditioning coaches; at the Lions that man being Rupert Oberholster.
“Rupert is doing some great work of mixing up the training. They are currently focussing on aerobic work, and moving to a bit more position-specific agility and hand-eye coordination work,” said Van Rooyen, himself a specialist in the strength and conditioning field.
He added: “But obviously the players would have lost all their contact conditioning and that training and match sharpness and intensity.”
He said only once the players returned to actual field training would he be in a position to see how “out of shape” the players are. “We will see once we start again by how much though. What I do know is that the players have really been working hard on their general fitness and baseline conditioning.”
The Lions coach said he thought the players could be match ready in two to four weeks once they resumed on-field training. “The challenge would be to get them contact-ready to reduce the risk of collision injuries once we can start playing again.”
He further said due to Covid-19, rugby in the immediate future – before a vaccine or treatment options are available – could look a little different to what fans and players have come accustomed to.
“I believe the normality of rugby could change slightly; the way we will have to train, the way we travel to games, and so on, is going to change.
“Also, the game preparation will be focused more on the individual, where in the past that tended to be more team-based. It’s a challenge for us to get creative and get the boys buying into something new, to all of us.”
Van Rooyen said he was looking forward to seeing the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams in action in the coming weeks. “Definitely there will be lots of interest as they will be the first teams to play again. We will all look closely to see what and how they operate.”