The DHL Stormers squad are spending their lockdown working hard to improve physically, technically and mentally through a highly-specialised remote training programme.
With Vodacom Super Rugby currently suspended and South Africa on nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DHL Stormers have had to be extremely innovative in their approach.
Head Coach John Dobson said that the players are responding well to the programme that has been put in place, doing everything they can to improve while in lockdown.
“We tailored individual programmes, but we had to bear in mind their environment. A guy like Johan du Toit is on a farm and somebody can throw a ball to him, it is obviously different to Chris van Zyl, who is the only guy in the squad living by himself.
“There is the fitness stuff, which is daily reporting, they have each got their own work-ons in terms of their technical skills. Then each coach is sending out video drills and then each player has to send that drill back on video.
“They have also got technical projects like analysing our game and the opposition teams, trends in world rugby.
“Then lastly a bit of fun, they are divided into groups and each group is competing with each other for things like post of the day or fitness drill of the day.
“This programme we are running now is absolutely superb, we have got a mental skills guy in Tom [Dawson-Squibb], we have got a psychologist, a nutritionist.
“I am thrilled with what we have developed, the guys are responding well and as coaches we are working pretty hard,” he said.
The lockdown has also given the coaches a chance to analyse their game and Dobson said that a big focus-point going forward will be their understanding of territory and the kicking game.
“We have pulled our game apart and we have got external guys who are coaching at international level to look at our game.
“We know exactly what we need to fix, for three or four games we had 40% territory. It is about our exits, how we set up, how quickly we set up and where and when we kick.
“In rugby, territory and possession correlate so highly, your pack hasn’t got energy to scrum and play rugby in their own half. They get nervous, kick the ball away. The pack gets energy closer in to the opposition half, every pack does.
Ït is not about how often or how far we are kicking, it is about coaching, how we are setting up, we are taking 15 seconds to exit, which is crazy, so that is what we are working on.
“We know what to do and the first second we get on the training field that is our domino. We have got other things like our explosivity and our conditioning, but the main one on the field is the kicking game,” he explained.
One silver lining to this period of lockdown is that it has given some of the players with long-term injuries a chance to recover. Dobson gave an update on some of the key players who have been sidelined this season and when they can be expected to be fully fit again.
“Bongi and Pieter-Steph should be ready to play in early June, Siya will be back the next time we play, definitely. Kitsie and Herschel might be back in the first week of July, but maybe in June,” he said.
The players all continue to be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19, but at this stage none have been affected.
“We screened all of the players on the last day at the HPC, last Thursday. That is not the formal test, but a screen. They do daily symptom reports, temperature and wellness reports with the Doc,” Dobson added.