Sharks begin in Style

It is ready, get set and go for the Sharks ahead of the start of the Super 14 with their squad completed and organised for the fray beginning with friendly matches against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and the Lions in Durban in the first week of February.

This was revealed Friday morning at the opening session of the 29th Discovery Sharksmart coaching conference which was launched at the Absa Stadium – on an extremely hot morning when players were put through their paces on an outfield – and continuing later at the Sibaya Casino Complex for an afternoon of theoretical discussions.

Present at the field exercise was referee Mark Lawrence who gave the players and early insight into the law changes that come into effect in the Super 14 competition in 2008.

He quipped: “They are designed in part to eliminate referees. But I think we will be working harder than ever.”

Lawrence was demonstrating the new law relating to the ruck formation and in particular the “hands in” aspect in the changes.

He was also delivering a talk on the Experimental Law Variations (Elvis) which if proven to be successful, will be adopted at all levels of rugby.

As far as the Sharks squad was concerned, it was disclosed that all members of the squad, with the exception of the Tonga utility player Epi Taione, had assembled in Durban and that coaches Dick Muir, John Plumtree and Grant Bashford were more than happy with the outlook for the 2008 season.

Taione is still playing in Japan but is due in Durban early next month.

Sharks and NRU president Peter Hassard said: “Everyone is fit apart from prop Deon Carstens who will probably miss the first two matches as he recovers from his shoulder injury. But the good new is it is repairing very well medically.”

About 300 coaches from schoolboy, club and other levels attended the coaching conference which began in the morning with the coaching session – attended by a goodly crowd of spectators in spite of the heat – with the emphasis on tactics and practical issues that the coaches need to be aware of as they prepare their teams.

The afternoon session is a theory exercise aimed at basically showing the coaches the importance of planning, game strategies and other developments in rugby administration.

The main idea is to aim at introducing a balanced approach to the game rather than a win at all costs policy. Also to introduce a climate of enjoyment, player safety and a return to the spirit of the game at all levels. It was emphasised that the greatest long term influence on a young player was his coach.

It was also reported that Jason McPherson, a former Aussie Rules kicking expert, had been drawn into the Sharks team as a kicking coach who so far has had some valuable information to share on kicking skills and overhead marking in competitive situations.

Sapa  –

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