Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Super 14 teams head back to 'the office'
Friday, 04 January 2008

The 'summer of rugby' is about to begin and for the New Zealand Super 14 squads the brief Christmas break is just about over as they continue preparations for another gruelling season.

The Blues players have had a two week break over Christmas and New Year but with a trip to South Africa very early in the campaign the players spent the lead-up with the strength and conditioning team of Mark Harvey and Byron Thomas.
There was unlikely to be too much over-indulgence from the Blues players over the break with the high humidity and extreme heat of venues such as Bloemfontein and Johannesburg just around the corner.
The South African sides are notoriously strong at home and combined with the new Experimental Law Variations to be showcased in the 2008 Super 14, the players are expected to be put under extra aerobic stress.

The most successful team in Super rugby history, the Crusaders, return to training on January 7 with one last chance to pinch a Super 14 title for their beloved coach, Robbie Deans, before he takes on his responsibilities as Wallabies coach.
Prior to Christmas, the bulk of the squad was involved in strength and conditioning-based work, with the team breaking for its summer holiday on December 21.
The last assignment prior to Christmas was a quadrathlon event on Lyttleton Harbour and around the Port Hills, involving swimming, kayaking, running and cycling.

While January 7 will officially mark the first day where the full Crusaders outfit has been at work together, all of the squad’s All Blacks were involved in some form of training prior to the Christmas break.
When the new season kicks off against the ACT Brumbies, All Black fullback Leon MacDonald will become just the fifth Crusader to 100 matches for the side.
Prior to that, the Crusaders have three warm up matches, beginning with a first ever pre-season hit-out against the Hurricanes.
Their pre-season opponents from the capital had a similar end-of-year event as the Crusaders with their third annual Surf to Peak duathlon.

The race, which wrapped up the Hurricanes' pre-Christmas training programme, started at Lyall Bay, with the players cycling to Oriental Parade before running the steep hill climb up Mt Victoria.
Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper will be pleased to see All Blacks centre Conrad Smith come out on top after an injury plagued 2007.
Cooper is sure to be looking forward to the new law changes, particularly the requirement of backline defenders to stand five metres behind their own No 8's feet.
The extra space will provide a platform for his talented trio of loose forwards and half back Piri Weepu.
The Hurricanes will start out the New Year with skills work before moving into contact and their first pre-season hit-out against the Crusaders in Motueka on January 25.
Their Super 14 opener is against the Waratahs on February 16.

Chiefs coach Ian Foster is another coach who will be looking at the new rules with glee.
With the 2008 season expected to be faster and more aerobically taxing than ever before, Foster will be looking to unleash his speed merchants Sitiveni Sivivatu, Sosene Anesi, Lelia Masaga and Viliame Waqaseduadua.
But after an injury blighted start to the 2007 season Foster will be treating his squad with kid gloves ahead of their Super 14 opener against the Blues at Eden Park.
After their warm up matches against the Highlanders in Invercargill on January 26 and the Hurricanes at Taupo on February 2, Foster will be having a camp in Whangamata for a week where he will assess the condition of his players and manage their training intensity.

One side with nothing to lose are the Highlanders, written off before they have even played a game in 2008, they are looking to show they are not there to just make up the numbers.
After ditching the 'locals only' policy new coach Glenn Moore has assembled a squad with nine Super 14 rookies and a glaring lack of experience after the departure of many veteran players.
The Highlanders assembled on November 27 for strength and conditioning training before their Christmas break.
They reconvene on January 7 to prepare for warm-up matches against the Chiefs in Invercargill and the Blues in Dunedin, as well as an internal trial.
But it is their opening match against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on February 15 where they will be looking to prove the doubters wrong.

Pix : Rudi Wulf, Blues

Note : sorry about the delay. You will all understand that I needed some time to fix "the" issue... & thanks for your support!

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