Head of Performance Johan Pretorius gives us his targets for the summer as the players work on their conditioning and power in the first block of pre-season training.
First of all Johan, how have you found your time at Sixways so far?
It has been really good. It’s my second pre-season with the lads which makes it a lot easier. I understand their needs and the whole club is on a better footing now.
The team showed their fitness levels to secure some memorable late wins last season, that must be rewarding for all the strength & conditioning and medical staff?
I’m just thankful, it was a long season and the players played themselves into fitness to an extent – it wasn’t just us as the S&C team. I was really happy to see it because last pre-season was tough from a workload point of view, there weren’t many off days and it paid off. We have 12 weeks now so I know we can get the boys fit but I want to be more specific and focus on areas we need to improve on.
Do you have any specific targets?
Yes definitely, I know the players’ strengths & weaknesses now. We had a great team meeting on day one and set out our goals for the lads. Our critical work for the next six weeks is a lot of strength, speed and power work. It’s all very attainable and we are developing plyometric profiles for each player to look at explosiveness. Everything is timed and tested each week, which keeps the players competitive in their groups.
How much planning goes into pre-season?
A lot – this period is crucial. This is probably my key time with the players so I really try and connect with them, although they are exhausted every day! It takes about eight weeks of planning and there’s a lot of collaboration with the coaches. We need to know their feedback from last season, the things we could improve and include in this year’s plan.
How many people work in the strength & conditioning department?
We have myself, David Fabricius and Ryan Fisher working with the senior team then Jack Powley and Joe Green with the senior academy. We have two GPS lads who we are including in the gym stuff as well and they are really good.
There’s more of a focus on fitness and power in the first block back with rugby introduced later, why is this?
Alan Solomons told me we have a 12-week pre-season and asked me to look after the first six weeks. I still integrate skills work from the coaches along with conditioning games. The aim was the to get the players robust and strong in the gym and the second half is more focus on rugby. It has been working really well.
How important is rest and recovery considering the varying intensity of the weekly schedule?
I’ve worked with professional players for ten years now and the power output is ginormous so you can’t just keep pushing them the whole time.
We train for four weeks then they have a one-week break which is crucial. That doesn’t mean they will be eating pie & chips on the beach but it takes a load off them and they can take their minds off rugby.
Then we have another four weeks followed by another break. Physiologically it’s important and it’s such a long season so they do need breaks. It’s about how we structure them to be fully ready for the Gallagher Premiership season.