How Hurricanes prepare to win

Hurricanes assistant coach JOHN PLUMTREE says a good working week is the key to success on match day.

Some people may think a rugby 
team simply pitches up for training 
on Tuesday and Thursday, has a 
light captain’s run on Friday and 
then plays the game on Saturday. 
But there’s a lot more to it.

The Hurricanes coaches all have 
different roles. My job is to look 
after the defence and restarts.

We also have a scrum coach, a lineout coach, an attack coach and, of course, a head coach, who oversees everything and is responsible for many other things in 
the organisation. However, there is a fair bit of crossover when it comes to opinion and strategy. For example, our attack and forwards coaches help me with the defence, because those aspects interlink. Having a unified approach to the game plan and goals is vital.

Our preparation for a match this Saturday would have begun the previous Wednesday, with a lot 
of analysis of the opposition. Only once we have done that, will we plan the next working week.

We will organise unit sessions that focus on the scrum and lineout, and team sessions based on attack and defence. We also work in skill sessions, which the players enjoy, and ensure there’s enough rest and recovery time. 
The trainers will also get involved in the 
planning of the week if the players need conditioning or speed work, for example.

On Monday, we review the performance 
in our last match and start looking at our next opposition. A lot of meetings take place between our ‘game drivers’ – like the scrumhalf and flyhalf – and the coaches to discuss game strategy around attack and defence. We’ll also have scrum and lineout meetings with team leaders. Once we’ve decided on the strategy for our next match, we need to put it in place on the field, and that happens on a Monday afternoon, when we run 
any new moves.

On Tuesday, we focus on unit sessions and getting our set-pieces right. We will also have a video session in the morning and a team session in the afternoon. The players normally have Wednesday off.

On Thursday, there are unit and team sessions, and Friday is the captain’s 
run or ‘clarity practice’, as some coaches like to call it. It’s a last chance to address and nail down anything that’s been missed.

All of our training sessions are filmed and 
the coaches view those videos in the evenings to ensure the players understand their roles and those of their teammates. This is especially important for the replacements, some of 
whom cover more than one position.

If players understand their roles in the game plan, they can focus on bringing the emotion 
they need to the match. If something happens during the game, they can instinctively perform their role, because they’ve practised it so often during the week.

Our working week changes slightly if we 
have a game on a Friday. We then train on Monday and Tuesday and for half a day on Wednesday (the players get the other half 
off), and have the captain’s run on Thursday.

Recovery is a crucial aspect in Super Rugby. The Hurricanes have a ‘time on feet’ policy to ensure the players are not on the field for an extended period. We need them to come in 
every day feeling fresh and by Friday afternoon, 
if they’re playing on Saturday, they need to be 
good to go.

When it comes to planning a working week, the devil is in the detail. If you don’t get it 
right and don’t have the players’ buy-in, you 
run the risk of losing a match. We never want 
our preparation to be the reason we lost. If you 
beat the Hurricanes, it’s because you were the better team; not because we got it wrong.

– This column first appeared in the May 2017 issue of SA Rugby magazine.

Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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John Plumtree