Sharks scheduled to play the Bulls in a Super Rugby opener ,How hot is it ?

Two years ago, the Sharks were scheduled to play the Bulls in a Super Rugby opener, as they are this Saturday, and the Sharks players said afterwards that they had had incessant test message enquiries from their Pretoria friends about “how hot is it in Durban?!”

No doubt the Bulls are again fretting about discomfiture levels on the East Coast that this week had some schools cancelling extra-mural sport.

It is fact. Super Rugby teams hate playing in Durban in February and March, be it the Bulls, Brumbies or Crusaders. Heck, just watching a game at Kings Park at this time of year requires regular hydration, preferably not of an amber hue.

Player lose up to four kgs of body weight in matches at Kings Park at this time of year. In days of yore, it is little wonder that old school hooker John Allan demanded that a six pack of Lion Lager be ensconced at his spot in the change room after the match. And it would be “klapped” before the fiery hooker progressed to the shower.

Rules on rehydration have evolved since Alllan’s hey day in the early ‘90s, but how to play in Durban at this time of the year remains the same. You play an expansive game at your peril because the sweaty, slippery ball equates to playing in the rain. Which is why try-scoring bonus points are unheard of in Durban at this time of the year.

New Sharks coach Jake White knows all about the tropical heat here having been an assistant coach at the Sharks in 2000, and his current take on the sweltering heat is typically pragmatic for the 2007 World Cup winner.

“You can use it to your advantage,” he says. “The heat is not going to go away, so you work with it. We decided we wanted to train in the heat of the day in pre-season to get used to it. In the past, sessions were apparently moved to early morning or late evening to avoid the heat of the day. This group has trained at 9.30am to 11am and from 3.30pm to 5pm, when it is hottest. The reason is that if it is to be an advantage to us, we must not avoid the heat when we train.”

Does the heat change the way the Sharks want to play in the early rounds?

“It does, but it suits us because in this competition teams generally like to start with low-risk rugby and with a (conservative) understanding about the need to play in the other team’s half,” White said. “It is something we have worked on over the last few weeks, taking into account that this is a weather condition you don’t find elsewhere.”

And Super Rugby history shows that even the most flamboyant teams battle to score tries in Durban at a time of year that used to be reserved only for cricket, not that those madmen in whites should have been baking in the midday-sun. Mind you, they were Englishmen and their mad dogs, initially any way.

“The bottom line is bonus points are called that for a reason,” White points out. “They are a bonus, you first and foremost have to win the game. It is not just about Durban in February, a lot of it is about how the laws are blown in the first couple of weeks, the way referees have zero tolerance on certain aspects that have been red-flagged for them in off-season.

“Therefore it is difficult because you have to adapt quickly to how referees are blowing,” White said. “Don’t just look at Durban as a place where bonus points are hard to find. In early rounds, it is a trend that teams don’t score many tries, whether you are in Auckland, Durban or Canberra. Few teams get off to flying starts. Having said that, we have a goal of getting as many bonus points as we can by playing as well as we can in every fixture.”

by Mike Greenaway

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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