Making the best of it; NZ rugby preseason XVs & 7s warm-up

Making the best of it; NZ rugby preseason XVs & 7s warm-up

Across the board, all nations have had to make the best of it. Yet for sides downunder and being somewhat isolated, the NZ rugby preseason for each of the XVs and 7s sides has had to be creative and especially reactive.

Covid-19 has changed or made near impossible so many of the prearranged set preseason plans for rugby around the globe. Not anymore more so, than for International rugby sevens teams. So much so that many have thrown out the planner’ altogether. They have adapted, and have even made new plans on-the-hop that benefit both the host and the visitor.

That same strategy has recently interrupted the Super Rugby preseason match schedule but gladly, an alternative was hastily arranged which can still ‘make the best of it’.

While the new season for the New Zealand (NZ) sides is only a week away, their fellow rugby sevens teams still have to make do of a tough situation, and fans will hope that some recent opportunities to compete are not just an anomaly for 2021.

NZ rugby preseason XVs & 7s warm-up

The learnings that every rugby organization has had to grow from in 2020, further continue in 2021, None more so than when the Blues v Crusaders preseason fixture was canceled due to an increased Covid Alert level. Yet as soon as that level was adjusted downward, and with the available window there, the Chiefs reached out. They were happy to help remedy a bad situation, offering a solution to the problem caused from outside of their control.

This will be the second time the ‘game of three halves’ is used by the Waikato-based side. And to greater effect too. The challenge that the Crusaders bring is undoubted. So, with the Blues leaving their tighter restrictions of Auckland, to travel over the border [Bombay Hills] and be able to face the Crusaders after all, these three sides will each greatly benefit from the matches.

To complete the NZ rugby preseason for the XVs players, on Friday the Highlanders hosted the Hurricanes. In a satisfying win, the southern men will take some confidence into Round One of Super Rugby Aotearoa although, the Hurricanes might well need to hit training a lot harder this week to feel the same.

It also applied to the rugby sevens sides too. As the national men’s and women’s sides had to make the best of it, with an invitational tournament in their Mount Maunganui base camp.

Making the best of a bad situation

Across each platform, the preparations over this New Year have been full of intent. Slightly different though, with franchise sides knowing exactly when their season was to begin; March 26.

However, for their rugby sevens counterparts, they have no definite competition. It has reduced the emphasis on the normally assured HSBC Sevens Series. No World Series means their key goal of the Tokyo Olympics – still not confirmed; and with suggestions that the tournament in July may not proceed – means any opportunity to maintain their match-fitness is vital.

Yet, the training and practice from both women and men has been unending.

This weekend, that energy can be directed into opposed training. Both women’s and men’s group have been broken into two squads, that will challenge each other plus some invitational sides.

Comprising assorted Fijian Baabaas and Tongan players residing in New Zealand for the All Blacks Sevens men’s competition, and a mix of Black Ferns Sevens players plus a development team and some other quality opposition to sharpen up the skills in both groups.

This is really making the best of what is available locally, as offshore travel is still not permitted. So while team’s would dearly love to be involved in the World Rugby #madrid7sWorld Rugby #madrid7s tournament, they must use all opportunities available, to stay in top shape.

The same applies to the XVs players, who must be ready to peak in week one of Super Rugby Aotearoa. The local derby games will be intense, so a good start is needed by each franchise, if they want to compete over the next few months.

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Note: Super Rugby Australia began their championship on Friday night, and have also had a mixed rugby sevens tournament for their squads to also be prepared for the prospect of the Tokyo games proceeding in July.

 

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