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Contributors - Allister Coetzee, Juan De Jongh, Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Steph du Toit, L Strauss
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In this edition; we follow the Storm-ers in their pre-season conditioning, interview Juan de Jongh, Joe Pieter-son and Steve Kitshoff and get their take on the upcoming season. In Science of Sport we improve your throw-in skills with Tiaan Liebenberg.
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Why else is it tough, we asked? "Well, there's no weak team in the competition and there's also a traveling element, so players are away from home for four weeks at a time. This is a challenge for any team training and playing in close proximity. The team also faces different conditions, playing in the winter of New Zealand, which is not easy. But every team has to go through it, and thats what makes the experience so unique."
The team is in the technical phase now and working hard. "There are a lot of technical areas that players need to be adept in, but there must also be a special trait, a star-quality" says Coetzee. For instance, Juan de Jongh can play positions 12 or 13, understanding both roles well. "He's explosive", says Coetzee. "He's maturing both as a player and a person. Young Steve Kitshoff too. He is not a bit of a powerhouse, he is a powerhouse, with unbelievable talent."
"Ultimately", says Coetzee, "We want to win the Super Rugby competition. We've come so close in the finals of 2010 and the semis of 2011, so thats what we're working for."2012 looks like the year of the Stormers. We have faith in the team to win this year's Super Rugby competition.
JUAN DE JONGH WANTS TO BE KNOWN AS ONE OF THE BEST centres in the world. Today he's getting closer to that dream.
He will be even closer come the start of this year's DHL Stormers, Super Rugby campaign. Juan de Jongh believes in working hard and challenging the limits. He is a living testament to the Adidas catch phrase; "impossible is nothing". His critics were worried about his size, but he has already proved himself against some of the world's best centres.
Being able to squat over 220kg's at only 88kg's, conditioning coach, Steph du Toit, says he's got it all. Leg strength, explosive power, speed, agility and most importantly, the will to be the best. That's the kind of motivation that is superior to any physical ability.
We met up with him at the Stormers High Performance Centre in Bellville, during their intense pre-season conditioning programme, and he was as great in person as he is on the field.
Have you always wanted to be a professional rugby player?
Yes, it has always been my dream. Since I started playing, I loved it so much, I wanted to be the best in the world. I am getting closer to that dream by working hard and simply refusing to give up. We've got a great culture at WP, so it's important for me to train hard and play well. I used to watch Robbie Fleck playing on the TV and now he's one of my coaches. It's somewhat surreal.
What is the most important thing about being a professional sportsman?
The most important thing is to have discipline in the small things, like being on time; but mostly working hard and being the best you can be. Never back down and don't let your dreams go - Impossible is nothing.
And your work ethic?
It's about training hard and improving yourself all the time, even if it's a squat here and a pass there. Technical stuff is very important to me, but it's better for me to train hard and quick, than to have long and outstretched sessions.
How has training evolved and changed from your days at the Western Province Institute?
I learnt a lot at the Institute. I worked with brilliant coaches like Steph du Toit, Dawie Snyman and other great names there. As a youngster, we were having a jol with the guys; you learn little things from the guys you used to watch as a kid. That's how I grew into the person, and rugby player, I am today.
How's your mind-set?
It hasn't really changed. Since I started playing I wanted to be the best. It's just the way I am. When I put my mind to something I want to achieve it.
What is the best and most important part about your training?
We've got lekker spangees. There's a great team culture at WP. We're having fun together and improving every day. Our supporters love to see improvement. I'm just enjoying the game and the people around me. I guess, I'm living my dream.
How is the tough conditioning training treating you?
We've got great conditioning coaches. We always say "don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits". It's been awesome to see the guys work so hard to make this such a successful franchise.
Your lifestyle in one sentence:
Very very chilled.
What are your personal goals for the next 5 to 10 years?
I've always wanted to be a Springbok. I've got ten caps in the bag, but there's still so much hard work to do before I can fulfill my dreams. I want to become a legend; I don't want to be just another Springbok and a name no one remembers.
If you could do anything else, what would it be? No limits:
Skydiving, but actually I'm quite scared of heights.
What are you most grateful for?
I'm most grateful for what I have at the moment, but more importantly, my health. It's the small things in life that people take for granted. God has really blessed me with great health so far.
I don't know about any secret talents...
What makes for a good bromance like your friendship with Gio Aplon?
Gio and I have been roommates for about 4 years now; we enjoy each other's company and have the same mind-set. We do a lot of fun stuff together and our PlayStation is a very important part of it!
Coach Allister Coetzee identifies Juan's stepping skills as his X factor. He understands his positions in the number 12 and 13 jerseys well and is, overall, a great player and distributer of the ball. Coetzee describes him as explosive and with good reason, "Juan will always find a way to win a few yards. He's dynamite."
Kitshoff matriculated only two years ago and is already competing against the likes of the Franks twins from New Zealand. He began his rugby career as an eighth man in primary school, but soon moved to prop in time for the U13 Coca-Cola Craven Week. Prop is the perfect position for Kitshoff as he loves the physicality of the scrums. Kitshoff says, "Every game is tough, it takes a lot out of you, so gym time and strength training is vital." Kitshoff clearly has no lack of strength or agility.
He's shown immense talent and potential during his school years, but professional rugby is totally different. When asked about the step up from school he says: "I have to look after my body much better and the training and gym sessions are intense. It's a big step up from school, but I'm loving every moment".
Steven says he looks to seniors like Brok Harris and Tiaan Liebenberg for advice on temperament and technique. However, in the strength department Kitshoff should not be underestimated, he is powerful. In terms of size, explosiveness, speed and mental composure he more than carries his weight, and he's determined and fearless.
In the modern game, which is fluid, unrelenting and unforgiving, Steve Kitshoff is the complete package.
In the modern game, which is faster, unrelenting and unforgiving, Steve Kitshoff is the complete package.
The harder you come at him, the harder he pushes himself to resist you. Don't be fooled by his good manners and calm nature - Steve Kitshoff has a fighting spirit and there is a dog inside of him.
Conditioning coach, Stef du Toit believes Kitshoff is a freak of nature, because of his age and the fact that he is ridiculously strong. Kitshoff is a player every coach would want to be in their squad. The Stormers are lucky to have him.
We've not seen the best of Kitshoff. Like all props, he will take a few years to mature - if he can be kept injury free. If his strength, physicality, running and technical ability is anything to go by, we can expect much more from Steven Kitshoff.
Place your dominant hand on the ball with your fingers across the seam of the ball, which provides better grip and creates spin on the ball.
Your non-dominant hand guides the ball during the throw.
Your feet should be planted squarely along the touchline or one in front of the other, which ever stance you feel most comfortable with. Make sure you are balanced and stable.
Your core must be kept tight to enable you to generate power in the throw.
Keep your elbows from spreading too wide. Make sure you keep them close to your head to enable you to generate power in the throw.
Use your whole body to create the momentum needed for the throw.
Your core should be tight to maintain stability and generate a powerful release.
Follow through, with your arms fully extending towards the target, keeping your hands up as a visual guide.
On release, your feet should still be firmly planted, weight centred and eyes fixed on the target.
Aplon believes that his professional rugby career - playing for Western Province, the Stormers and the Springboks - has been a true blessing. He maintains that although he has achieved a lot in the last 5 years, his most important advice is to stay humble, "Rugby careers are temporary, one day it will be gone and if you were arrogant and prided yourself on it, what will you have to fall back on once it is gone?" He explains that he is not saying that rugby players should not work hard to improve their game and get better, but that improving and getting better at what you do should not lead to an arrogant and boastful lifestyle.
Aplon has a close friendship with Juan de Jongh, so close that de Jongh wanted to irritate "Appies" while he was being interviewed. He says that they share a healthy competition in training and on the rugby field, but they are the most competitive when they sit in front of their Sony Playstation 3. Aplon explains it as a "tense environment," and, "when someone enters the room they can sense the competitiveness." He reassures us that it does not affect their friendship and that Juan de Jongh is one of his closest friends. Aplon laughs, but does not disagree, when we call his relationship with Juan de Jongh a 'Bromance'. He says that his secret talent is making food and gives us the inside scoop on Juan de Jongh's secret talent - dancing and singing.
Aplon might enjoy goofing around with Juan de Jongh, but he explains that before a match he must be alone to calm his nerves. He details that he, most importantly, prays before a match because it settles him down and gives him perspective. Being alone helps his mind to be clear in order for him to focus on the job that he has been entrusted with on the field. Aplon tries to focus solely on the positives; how the preparation throughout the week has gone, what advice the coaches have given him and the weaknesses of his opposing number.
Gio Aplon is a humble, well mannered and dedicated professional. Let's hope that his remaining time at the Stormers will be long and fruitful and most importantly, that he will stay as humble as he is.