Friday, May 11, 2007

Deans calls time on conditioning programme (

Friday May 11th.

DURBAN: Crusaders coach Robbie Deans hopes New Zealand rugby has seen the last of the All Blacks' conditioning programme.
Deans said the decision to allow 22 leading players to sit out the first half of the Super 14 had turned his team's season into an enormous challenge for players and management.
The New Zealand Rugby Union, by agreeing to the wishes of All Blacks management, had also effectively handed South Africa early momentum in World Cup year, he added, as their Super 14 teams had taken advantage of the weakened New Zealand franchises.
Deans was careful with his criticism, acknowledging his franchise had got in behind the concept.
However, the most successful coach in Super rugby history couldn't speak highly enough of his team's achievement in reaching this weekend's semifinals, considering the obstacles.
"We supported it because that was meant to be the best thing and we want them (All Blacks) to succeed," Deans told NZPA.
"But I'll give you this much, I'd like to think we won't be going through that again."
Deans was not surprised that a number of the players who returned to action after missing the first seven rounds had picked up injuries or were off the pace.
"To get thrown into the middle of a competition with no pre-season background is very, very hard. And it showed through breakage (injuries) and we anticipated that," Deans said.
"The Hurricanes are a case in point, in the way some of the individuals struggled to get going."
Among his six returnees, lock Chris Jack and first five-eighth Daniel Carter had been sidelined with injury.
Elsewhere, Chiefs backs Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Byron Kelleher had all acquired damage of varying degree, as had Blues winger Joe Rokocoko and Hurricanes forwards Jerry Collins and Jason Eaton. The latter is out of rugby for six months.
"Our players spoke of the soreness they experienced. It wasn't easy but they did very well. They produced some outcomes while grappling with fitting into the mix and coping with the stresses and strains."
Deans said his conditioned All Blacks - Leon MacDonald, Aaron Mauger, Carter, Richie McCaw, Reuben Thorne and Jack - enter Sunday morning's semifinal at the same level of preparation as if they were in round three or four of the competition.
"That's essentially it, we still lack the full background," he said.
"Normally at this point we've got a team who have been through a whole campaign and yet we're still covering detail."
Deans praised both his returning players and those who had set up the Crusaders' campaign in the first seven weeks by keeping them on the competition pace.
"If you said to us back in December that we'd make the playoffs, we'd be over the moon. And we are," he said.
"It was a huge challenge just to get here. We're here now and we're pretty keen to push on."
When asked why South African teams had improved this year, Deans again pointed to the conditioning programme. The under-strength New Zealand teams weren't the dominant force they have been against South African outfits in recent seasons.
"The intervention from New Zealand left the door ajar to some extent early," he said.
"When you give a capable group a bit of a sniff, they tend to get pretty excited and want to push on and make the most of it."
Another impact of the programme was on the standard of rugby, which may have been compromised, Deans said.
He noted much of the public comment early in the season was that the standard of play was down on previous years.
"And that was probably more of a reflection of some of the challenges at home. It was self-induced in many ways, due to the withdrawal of the 22 players," he said.
"I think we've seen in the latter half of the competition, it's just got better.
"The quality of the rugby in the last half has been pretty remarkable."

Pictures from the so-called Conditionning camp (in Wellington, I think) and this poor little girl who had asked nothing to no-one and was bumped into by some captain...We all hope she has recovered from this "accident" and will keep cheering on Richie!

Photos du Conditionning camp de Wellington (si je me souviens bien!) ; rappelez vous de cette petite fille qui n'avait rien demande a personne et qui s'etait pris un Richie McCaw en pleine figure... On espere qu'elle s'en est remis et qu'elle continue de supporter son capitaine national!

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