The Highlanders broke up for Christmas yesterday and it is
now time to rest some tired bodies.
Pre-Christmas for professional rugby sides is about getting
fit. With more than a dozen players in the squad either not
present or carrying injuries, there has been little focus on
team play on the field since the squad came together on
December 10. It has been more about bursting the lungs and
getting strong for the season ahead.
Coach Jamie Joseph said it was still early days with All
Blacks on leave, while other players were carrying injuries.
''With the way things are we have had to amend a lot of our
trainings. A few of the guys cannot do much running so we
have had them inside doing a lot on the grinding machine,''
''But this time of year it is more about fitness and strength
and I think we have done well there. Talking to the trainer
in terms of where we are at with speed, strength and fitness,
the guys are very similar to where they were last year.''
Joseph said one thing that had emerged was a high number of
niggling shoulder injuries.
''They have become prevalent for us. We are finding five or
six guys who have some partial dislocation of the shoulders.
Guys can carry those partial dislocations until they find
they are buggered and need an operation.''
Joseph put the increased shoulder injuries down to the
physicality of the modern game and the demands of the contact
No new injuries had been picked up in the pre-season although
Chris King (shoulder), Ma'afu Fia (thumb), John Hardie (toe)
and Lima Sopoaga (ankle) were still recovering from
Winger Kade Poki had fractures in his spine and was on light
duties. All were expected to be available for the start of
Days had started at 6am during the week and gone through to
7.30pm. Joseph said that had been done deliberately and the
players had responded well.
''It was not hard but just long days. The guys responded to
the community work really well. At first some of them were
asking `why?', and `how is this going to make me a better
rugby player?' But they met some good people and got some
respect around town. In the end, they really enjoyed it.
''They started early with training and then finished off at
night and had to work for five hours in the middle. But that
is what used to be done in the old days.''
The side finished off with a triathlon yesterday afternoon.
Players were in teams of four and had to get from Forsyth
Barr Stadium to the St Clair Salt Water Pool. Each team had
two bikes, so running and cycling was involved.
Players did some swimming at the pool before running up the
hill to finish at the St Clair Golf Club.
The triathlon was won by the team of Bronson Murray, Hugh
Blake, Doug Tietjens and Tony Ensor.
The players will go on leave for the next two weeks before
reassembling in Dunedin on January 7.
The All Blacks will link up with the Highlanders on February
1. The first pre-season game is against the Chiefs in Taupo
on February 2. The first game in the Super 15 for the
Highlanders is against the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on