Mauger era set to start at Highlanders

Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty
Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty
As one rugby season finishes, another one rolls around.

The Aaron Mauger era - on the training field anyway - is about to start at the Highlanders.

The All Black season concluded on Sunday with the win over Wales the last of 14 tests.

Now four days later, the bulk of the Highlanders will assemble tomorrow to start preparations for the 2018 season.

Mauger said it was an exciting time for the players and the coaching staff.

''The first couple of days is more of an induction and we go through some testing where the guys all get sorted out,'' he said.

''There is a clear expectation on the guys around what has to be done and there is also going to be a level of excitement of what is ahead of the players.''

Mauger said he had been doing a bit of skill training with the odd player in Dunedin over the past couple of weeks but he was looking forward to getting out on the paddock and starting training.

Pre-season training was important in regards to the competition next year.

''Just looking at our professional approach and setting the foundation for the season ... about making sure everyone is on the same page. That first block before Christmas is about laying the physical foundation, making sure all those connections are being made and we are being moulded into a team.

''It is enjoyable part of the year. Guys learn a lot about themselves. How far mentally they can push themselves. That is a real challenge for the coaching staff and the strength and conditioning guys.''

The side will train through until December 23 and then have a two-week break before coming back to training on January 8.

The side will initially be minus its All Blacks and Maori All Blacks who are on leave after tours.

Others will be missing from through injury and other commitments but all the new players and many of the returning players - totalling about 20 - will be on deck.

Young players will be called in to help fill the gaps left by the missing players over the opening few days.

The side's eight Maori players will miss only a few days and will rejoin the side later next week.

The five All Blacks will all come back in the new year at different stages.

Mauger, who took over from Tony Brown as head coach in July, said Ben Smith, who was on a sabbatical, might come back on and off during the early part of the pre-season.

''He is going to filter in and out of the team. We wanted to have a flexible programme for him and he will come in when he can.''

The next couple of days will be more about administration, testing and outlining the coming weeks to the players.

Mauger will be joined by Mark Hammett, new defence coach Glenn Delaney and new high performance coach Cory Brown.

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