New Western Force coach Dave Wessels has praised his team’s ability to cope with a harder training load, saying some players have even tweaked their diet and sleeping patterns.
The Force won two games last Super Rugby season and only three the year before, with the poor run leading to the axing of coach Michael Foley.
Wessels has been handed the task of rebuilding the Force, and the 33-year-old has focused on two key areas – fitness and skills.
The rookie coach has been pleased with how his players have embraced the challenge.
“There’s no doubt our loads have gone up from what we did last year, and we’re doing more contact,” Wessels said on Thursday.
“The real test has been what the boys have been doing off the field in order to get them up for the big loads.
“A number of them have made significant changes to their lifestyle – their diets and how they’re sleeping – different things to enable them to be able to tolerate the bigger loads.
“It’s been very pleasing for us that the players have been that proactive.”
Wessels said improving each player’s skillset would also prove critical.
Foley implemented a far more attacking style last season, but poor skills meant the team’s good work was often undone.
Wessels doesn’t want history to repeat.
Kevin Foote has been appointed as the club’s full-time skills coach.
And the players have also been given extra responsibility in the area.
In addition to the two dedicated skills sessions per week , players have been asked to nominate another skillset they want to work on each week.
They’ll then find time to work on that skill outside of the normal training slots.
“In order to play that open and attacking rugby we want to play, we’ve got to develop that skills base,” Wessels said.
“I think in a large part of the group we’ve seen some pretty significant shifts in the very basic catch-pass stuff we’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks.
“That’s very pleasing. Hopefully that’s the catalyst for us to play some more attacking rugby next year.”
Injured Wallabies trio Ben McCalman (shoulder), Jono Lance (arm), and Adam Coleman (knee) are expected to return to full training by January.