There was plenty of excitement at Jonsson Kings Park with the arrival of Cell C Sharks players on Monday for the first day of non-contact training in four months after the Vodacom Super Rugby season was abruptly ended in March because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a long time – since the Stormers’ game way back in March,” admitted an excited Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt.
According to Everitt, the Cell C Sharks will leave nothing to chance and have planned accordingly to ensure they adhere to the safety requirements put in place for professional sports teams by government and SA Rugby.
As a result, they will be training in groups of five – in the gym and on the training field, where balls and equipment will be cleaned often – to ensure all necessary safety protocols are met.
“It seems like a lifetime ago that the players were here and we couldn’t be more pleased to see them again,” added Everitt.
“They’ve returned in really good shape and conditioning tests have been performed and many of the players actually reached their personal bests in their running block tests which we’re very happy about.”
Although not all the players had access to gyms or similar training facilities during the lockdown period, Everitt explained that they will use the immediate future to get stuck into that aspect of fitness and conditioning.
“This is an area all the players will be working on but that comes faster than running which we’re already happy with so there is a base we’re working from already,” he said.
Everitt confirmed that the players will be training in small groups of five with a focus on strength and conditioning as well as running work.
“The players are also allowed to do non-contact skill work with the ball during the course of the day,” he said.
“They also will be working extremely hard on their position-specific skills to get back to where they were during the Vodacom Super Rugby competition because obviously that’s not something they could do over the last four months.
“But I’m very positive they will develop those skills with the hard work they put in.”
Everitt added that the players were in a good head space which makes work less of a chore and more of a goal.
“They’re really excited to be back and see their mates again, although the entire squad can’t train together as one group,” he said.
“But they’ve had the opportunity to renew friendships which they’ve missed during this lockdown period. The players know what it’s going to take to return to where they were during Vodacom Super Rugby, but they’re willing to put in the hard yards.
“They reaped great rewards from a really tough pre-season and this will be no different for them and we just hope our players remain healthy and free from COVID-19 infections so we can continue to train without disruption once again.”
According to Everitt it was also good to see the management also in a space, ready to motivate the players, as well as the medical staff being on top of their game.
“I think the break we’ve had over the last few months has certainly made everyone realise that you can’t take anything for granted and this wonderful game of ours is certainly one that we treasure and feel very fortunate to be involved in,” said Everitt.
“In saying that, we look forward to the journey ahead and hope to be back on the playing field as soon as possible.”
The Durban-based franchise was in great form before the pandemic halted sport action worldwide and they will have an injection of some new talent when field-action eventually returns.
Blitzbok stalwart Werner Kok, who hails from Mpumalanga and played Currie Cup rugby for DHL Western Province earlier in his career, and former Junior Springbok utility back Manie Libbok, from the Vodacom Bulls, have recently decided to make Durban their new home.
Kok, who played in his 50th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament for the Springbok Sevens team in Los Angeles earlier this year, signed with the Cell C Sharks a while ago, but has been unable to start training with his new team due to the COVID-19 pandemic.