The Vodacom Stormers started their preparation for the 2008 Super 14 season on Monday.
New coach Rassie Erasmus acquired the services of former Cheetahs fitness guru and physiotherapist Jacques Nienaber. He will be working closely with incumbent fitness and conditioning coach Greg Hechter.
Hechter said Nienaber brings a wealth of experience to the Stormers and he was looking forward to working with the new man. “Jacques altogether has 11 years experience in fitness and conditioning and he will bring a new perspective to our environment.
“He worked closely with Rassie before and he will bring in new ideas. I am excited – and everybody is – about what he can add.”
Hechter said the Stormers started the first phase of their pre-season conditioning program on Monday. “The focus for the following five weeks until 3 December will be on conditioning. We will not be doing anything rugby specific – just conditioning.
“We are doing it slightly different this year in that we getting the players in for two weeks so that we have all of them in Cape Town training together as a squad. During that time we will test them and give them a training program.
“Thereafter they are free to go home for three weeks or they can go on holiday, but they are expected to train in their own time. That will give them a mental break from exposure to rugby, although they will be working extremely hard.
“The onus is on them to show self discipline and stick to that program. We will be using quite a bit of heart rate technology. The players will download every session they do on the heart rate monitor and at the end of the day they e-mails the information through to us.”
The Stormers are also bringing the expected law changes – that will be put to the test in the Super 14 – into account in their preparation, said Hechter.
“We believe the ball will be in play 7 to 10 minutes more next year because of the law changes and that affects the way we condition the players.
We estimate that they will be running between one and one and a half kilometer more per game next season and therefore we included a lot more aerobic and running conditioning in the program.
“We anticipate that the players will be running a lot more and the intensity of the game will also increase a lot more because the ball will be in play a lot more.”
Testing on the players was done on Monday and the remainder will be done on Tuesday. On Wednesday the fitness and medical team will be having a theoretical session with the squad where the protocols and plans for them will be spelled out.
“After that they should fully understand the program and what we expect,” explained Hechter. On Thursday and Friday the players will be training under the guidance of the fitness and conditioning coaches.