Rugby and yoga make easy bedfellows
The days of first XV training programmes being confined to muddy practice grounds have gone.
There is still plenty of sweat but not much mud when the Rongotai College First XV get into their weekly yoga sessions.
Yoga and rugby has not always been a natural pairing at Rongotai but the game has become more sophisticated at secondary school level and few members of the Rongotai squad miss a Monday session.
Though there was some scepticism when coach Dave Meaclem suggested yoga. "When I first mooted it, the reaction was ‘you are kidding me'," Meaclem said.
"But they have been doing it for six weeks now and they love it. It's not compulsory and at the end of the day, if they don't like it - they don't go.
"But we usually get the whole squad, plus extras from our future group. The whole thing lasts an hour and they have a good workout. They are sweating.
"When they relax for five minutes, guys actually fall asleep."
Meaclem believes yoga benefits the players in a variety of ways. "It teaches them good relaxation - kids are under a bit of pressure these days - and there is the recovery aspect after a tough game on a Saturday, with all the stretching.
"It also improves their flexibility. Rugby is a really physical game and they can get into positions that can be quite awkward.
"We think it [yoga] has had immediate benefits and some were noticing it after one to two weeks."
The Rongotai squad have also had grappling sessions with former Wellington representative Hemi Pou, who took up Brazilian jiu jitsu after his rugby career finished.
The grappling training is designed to improve the players' effectiveness in the contact areas.
"They can use the skills at the breakdown and in the tackle," Meaclem said.
"Rugby changes every year and it's not just about Tuesday and Thursday training anymore. Anything helps and it's the little touches that gives the players more confidence.
"Rugby is a legitimate career option and it's all part of teaching kids to be physically prepared for the demands of the game."
The Rongotai XV face a testing week, with traditionals against St Pat's Silverstream and Wellington College in the space of four days, and with both games away from home.
They meet Silverstream, who are unbeaten in the Wellington competition, this afternoon, with the Wellington College clash on Saturday.
Rongotai have won their last two games, against Hutt International and Naenae, moving them into sixth place on the table and in sight of a place in the playoffs.
However, they are not assured of remaining in the top six, and St Bernard's, who meet Naenae on Saturday, could trump Rongotai, who will be looking for at least two bonus points this week.
"It's a big week - probably our biggest of the season," Meaclem said.
"It's a matter of the boys believing in themselves. It's a confidence thing and I think they are getting there. They have a very different attitude after two wins in a row.
"No one expects us to win [this week]. But if we can get that confidence within the group, it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks."
Rongotai will meet a Silverstream team that will be smarting from a 22-14 loss to Palmerston North Boys' last week, which ended Silverstream's hopes of winning all six traditional matches.
It was Silverstream's first defeat since losing a pre-season match against St Kentigern, in April.
Palmerston North, who were up 12-0 early in the game, played with accuracy and defended strongly but Silverstream coach Rob Ackerman believed his side was capable of better.
"We didn't play well and didn't deserve to win.
"They will have to reassess their goals now but they trained hard on Saturday morning and trained very well."
Silverstream will also be boosted by the return of skipper Jack McCormack, who made his season debut with 20 minutes against Palmerston North and had a run with the Second XV at the weekend and No 8 Nesi Solia is also back from injury.
Wellington College will be having their fourth game in eight days when they meet Rongotai. Wellington beat St Bernard's 40-22 at the weekend and will meet Nelson College in the final of the 2014 quad, at Wanganui Collegiate, this afternoon.
Wellington beat the hosts 31-10 on Monday, after leading 12-0 at halftime, and Nelson beat Christ's College 19-6.
It will be the 12th successive final for Wellington College who have not lost a quad match in that time, taking the title outright 11 times and drawing 31-31 with Nelson two years ago. Nelson will be playing in their 10th successive final but have not won a final since 2001.
Both the final and the playoff for third and fourth will be shown on Sky's rugby channel.
St Pat's Town, who ensured they would not finish further back than third in the round-robin round when beating Hutt International 37-3 last weekend, have a traditional against Francis Douglas College, in New Plymouth, today.
The Dominion Post