Orange means go for under-manned Hurricanes
If the season started this week the Hurricanes would struggle to field a team, but coach Mark Hammett knows the early absentee list is a positive sign.
Just 19 of the Hurricanes 37 contracted players were around to pick up their bright new orange training kit yesterday as the squad officially got to work.
That's because nine have been on the All Blacks end of year tour including apprentice Ardie Savea, six with the New Zealand Maori, and two with Samoa, while captain Conrad Smith is still on extended leave.
Hence, Hammett's immediate focus is on the players who are around including inducting the newcomers into the franchise.
But he's also acutely aware of managing the return of such a large group of players at the top levels of the game.
"It's a bit of a change from the last couple of years. Our Maori and Samoan representatives are in after Christmas with the All Blacks including Conrad Smith on Jaunary 27."
Players like Cory Jane, Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara haven't had a lot of recent match play and may be keen to return early.
However, the Hurricanes would rather have them stay away and get mentally refreshed, than thrash themselves over summer.
"Sometimes the toughest role from a coaching perspective is holding them back and making sure each individual programme is right," Hammett said.
"The [playing] workload isn't so much of a concern, but sometimes taking that couple of extra weeks [to mentally refresh], still training in your own environment, but not to a time schedule, can be more beneficial to the team than going hard in December and burning out."
Hammett anticipates his younger international players will come back with higher levels of motivation than ever before.
"The positive is when you are in that environment you get a sniff of it and its quite intoxicating and you want more of it.
"It's a highly stressful job being an All Black but it also makes you stronger and generally you see players come back saying they want more. To get more it is your performance, your training, how you perform at Super Rugby."
Some players could still prepare in a meaningful way for a Super Rugby campaign without a heavy physical workload, he said.
"For example Beauden [Barrett] during that early time we might not want to see him [at training] a lot, but we might want to work quite heavily on the tactical part of our game so he's really clear on that.
"TJ [Perenara] might want to do some specific skill set stuff, Thrushy [Jeremy Thrush] we might just say get in the gym mate, so there are different priorities."
Hammett had noted the team's colourful new training kit, but was reluctant to provide any critique.
"Maybe orange is the new black this year. It is interesting when you watch the news over the Super Rugby preseason and see all the kit.
"I'm certainly not someone to give fashion advice. I get the bag along with the others and I suppose [the colours] keep you young."
The Dominion Post