The Stormers have made conditioning and skills a big part of their pre-season training as they prepare for a difficult Super Rugby season.
The Cape Town based outfit held their annual training camp in Hermanus last week and will play warm-up games against the Cheetahs, SWD and Lions before starting their campaign against rivals the Bulls at Newlands in the first derby of the season on February 25.
Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck said that he was satisfied with the strides his squad has made in the off-season, as they have embraced the new approach.
“In November we set ourselves some new challenges and some new goals. We needed to make a few changes in our set-up and the way we approach things,” Fleck said.
“From the players’ perspective we had to make some major changes, not just in the way we see the game, but the way we see ourselves and our professional approach. We had a really good off-season period where we worked hard for about six weeks and enforced some of those changes.”
The addition of New Zealand attack and skills coach Paul Feeney to the coaching staff has resulted in a greater emphasis in skills development.
“Skills was a major focus for us, hence Paul Feeney joining us,” Fleck said.
“He has had many a session, where he upskilled the players – not only in catching and passing, but more so vision and decision-making, and communication. Everything is in line to becoming a better team, we want to help the players become more natural in their skills and consitioning, that it is not hard work but that everything becomes second nature.”
Fleck added that the focus has also been on making the most of their physicality by improving their combat skills.
“We certainly feel that there are parts of our fitness that we can improve on. I don’t think it is a case of being running fit, it is about being a little bit more accurate in certain aspects of our fitness,” he said.
“Another major point of focus for us was our combat, we needed to physically prepare players for one-on-one situations and getting that hard edge back into our game.
“South African players are big and strong but need to be able to use their physicality a little bit smarter and be more comfortable in those dark spaces.”
Fleck hopes to have close to a full squad to choose from when Super Rugby starts, with hooker Scarra Ntubeni and wing Leolin Zas the only long-term injury concerns.
“In the off-season we had a few [injury concerns] more than I would have liked. The medical staff have done a great job in getting most of the guys back, there are still one or two on the injured list – Leolin Zas, Scarra Ntubeni and Ali Vermaak.
“Come the last warm-up game against the Lions we should have a full squad to choose from apart from the long-term injuries to Zas and Ntubeni,” he added.