The Investec Stormers are on course with their off-season training program. That was the word from fitness and conditioning coach Greg Hechter on Tuesday.
“We are very excited about the squad being put together, particularly the new additions have added a new urgency to our training. The players have been pushing each other and there is an internal motivation coming from within the squad.
“They are pushing each other to train hard. What is particularly encouraging is the quality of the work they put in at gym. That is definitely superior to previous years.”
Meanwhile, there is good and bad news on the injury front for Stormers’ supporters. Scrumhalves Bolla Conradie and Neil de Kock are making good progress with their rehabilitation programs after suffering injuries during the Currie Cup season.
“Bolla and Neil are on specialised rehab programs managed by us. They are also doing the strength program with the rest of the squad, although they are obviously concentrating on lower body as they have suffered upper body injuries. The same goes for (lock) Ross Skeate.”
Springbok utility back Jean de Villiers, who suffered from a Grade 1 ankle sprain to his lower right ankle ligaments, is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery in time to commence Stormers training with the returning Investec WP Springboks in early January 2005.
Prop Neil Fullard had an operation to his left foot to alleviate chronic pain being caused by an old rugby injury to the mid-foot. The operation involved the fusion of mid-foot joints to stabilise the foot.
Neil will be rehabilitated for 6-8 months and should be available for the Investec WP Currie Cup campaign.
According to Hechter the players had a three-week break after the Currie Cup. During that time they were subjected to extensive medical and physical assessments to determine whether they had any weaknesses. Those who needed operations or medical interventions underwent it during that period, while the rest had a complete break from rugby.
“Since the second week of November they were on a three-week, five-day a week strength training program, focusing mainly on back, neck and legs. Those are three areas that are very difficult to strengthen during the season because the players run so much and doing so many on-field sessions,” said the fitness expert.
“The focus was really just on good quality strength work. The guys were encouraged to push as heavy weights as possible and pick up maximum strength.
“The next three weeks – the second phase – we went into the on-field conditioning sessions with the emphasis on power running in the lower limbs and also a continuation of upper body strength training.
“The emphasis was on the players reaching their target body weight, so there was quite a bit of fat loss for the players who are overweight. During that phase we also looked at position-specific technique, including light technical and skills work with the coaches.”
According to Hechter the squad also had a number of discussions and a few on-field sessions where they put the structure of the Stormers’ game plan in place.
“They will be finished with that phase on the 10th of December, when another three-week phase will start. Like the first one the emphasis will be on neck, back and legs strength, cardio-vascular maintenance and once again weight management. The difference this time is that the players will follow these programs in their own time, as they will have a break of three weeks.
“From 4 January the pre-season training will start and the emphasis will be on explosive power, speed work and contact preparation because we start our friendly games in preparation of the Super 12 on 29 January. The first phase of our preseason training will last about four weeks and during that time we must get the players ready for our friendly games.
“We are playing our friendly games on three consecutive weekends and the emphasis in training will be very much on game specific things and match readiness, as the Super 12 starts on 25 February for us.”
Hechter said it is essential that the Stormers’ Springboks get on a strength and muscle-building program as soon as possible upon their return from the overseas tour. Springbok coach Jake White wants them to have six weeks off and Hechter supports him wholeheartedly.
“They need an extended period away from the rugby field, but they need to utilise that time to go to gym. I will catch up with them when they get back and will be giving each one of them an individualised strength training program for the next six weeks.”
According to Hechter the players are looking forward to the mini triathlon at a farm out in Somerset West. “It became a bit of a tradition with us. It will be the last day of organized training and the players will be divided into teams.
“The triathlon comprises of 20 km cycling, a 500m swim and a 5 km run. They really enjoyed it last year and it builds team spirit.”