The Sharks have returned to Mr Price KINGS PARK on Monday after their Christmas break and will continue building a fitness and conditioning platform from which to launch and sustain their 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby challenge.
While Sunday offers some fun in the form of the cricket match against the Sunfoil Dolphins at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, the Durban weather at this time of the year coupled with the watchful eyes of the conditioning and coaching staff means that this is always the hardest time of the year for Sharks players.
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“The first week is always really tough as the guys get back into it, there’s a lot of hard work to be done with Super Rugby just around the corner and we obviously want to get out of the starting blocks as quickly as possible,” explains captain Keegan Daniel. “Sunday’s cricket match will just allow us to take our minds off what we’ve been doing and it’s just a nice break for us and to go out and have a bit of fun.”
Despite the prospect of the extreme conditions and preparatory work, he admits that everyone returned to the camp excited for the season ahead.
“The mood was good and there’s a buzz with all the guys catching up again, but we all know why we are here and what we want to achieve this season.”
Commenting on the ‘new’ recruits, he explains that, “Butch has been around, he’s been here before and will fit back in easily and will add a lot of value and it’s also good to have [Lions lock] Franco [van der Merwe] here, he will add invaluable experience to the second row. He’s obviously played a big role at the Lions and been in the Springbok squad recently, so it’s good to have someone like that in the tight five.”
Fran Steyn missed the second half of the season with injury but is looking good for the season, while Bismarck du Plessis’ rehab is ongoing.
“Frans ran this morning and is doing pretty well, he’s right on schedule but Bismarck will take a bit longer, he had a big injury, but the medical team is working hard with him.”
Looking back to 2012, The Sharks had an outstanding season, playing in both finals [Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby] but he admits that there are some lessons they’ve taken. “We were consistent in the fact that we made finals, but in terms of our performances we probably weren’t as consistent as we would have liked,” he says.
“We slipped up at times in the last competition, which put us under pressure towards the end. We want to be a lot more consistent in the way we perform in the games early on this season.”
Looking to The Sharks’ squad depth in 2013, he explains that potential and success are not necessarily inextricably linked.
“You can look at any squad and say it’s a great squad with good depth, but at the end of the day you’ve got to put it all together on the field. But we do have some good young players who’ve come through nicely and spent one or two seasons playing Currie Cup or Super Rugby. Then the likes of Butch and Franco are just going to add to that.”
Counting further in The Sharks’ favour is the fact that they have a settled squad with many experienced players in the camp.
“It helps immensely,” he admits; “it’s easier to come up with strategies and coming up with plans about what you want to achieve when guys have been around a while and understand the way the coaches do things.”
Finally, onto his personal growth as captain, he feels that there has been growth, but there is room for more.
“I learnt quite a bit and grew as well, but I continuously want to keep on learning and growing as a leader. A new season comes with new challenges, and I’m keen to meet them head on. But like Jean (de Villiers) always said, you can’t steer the ship on your own, you need support, and I think there is a good support group below me.”