It’s an early start to the Super Rugby season in 2020 and Chris Whitaker believes this change will only benefit the new, fresh squad that has been assembled at Daceyville.
The NSW Waratahs Assistant Coach said that players had been pushed to their limits with conditioning sessions amplified across the shorter pre-season block, while rugby elements had also been introduced earlier.
"Compared to last year, the running loads and the dark holes the boys have been put in, we’ve had guys that can’t finish sessions. It’s been really good,” Whitaker said.
"Pre-season is a lot shorter this year so we’ve had to add in the rugby side of things a lot earlier.
"The boys have handled it really well. Their running loads have gone up by about 20 per cent on last year, they deserve a good break over Christmas."
The NSW Waratahs officially returned for pre-season on November 25 and will break over Christmas before a return in early-Jan for their run in Round 1 – which kicks off on Saturday 1 February.
Rob Penney’s side will make a trip across the ditch to face 2019 Champions, the Crusaders in Nelson.
Whitaker wasn’t worried about the short pre-season, saying he feels it could benefit the younger contingent of the squad.
“I think the guys are just excited to play and the short preseason could work to our benefit, at the moment everything’s new for them [tactically],” Whitaker said.
"The way they have handled it, the change in their attitude and the leaders that have emerged has been impressive.
“The growth in attitude from the first week to now, it’s been first class.”
Whitaker said the tough training regime had uncovered new leaders in the absence of the side’s Wallabies – who remain on leave post Rugby World Cup.
"There are guys who haven’t played Super Rugby and they’re putting their hand up to be leaders, and really helping each other out. In that sense, it has been good to really help each other mature and come to the forefront,” Whitaker said.
"The guys who have been here before like the Jake Gordons and Ned Hanigans, who probably weren’t the top tier leaders, but now they’re really stepping up to that mantle.
“The guys underneath like Will Harrison, Michael McDonald, the guys who played 20s last year, those guys have taken a step up as well.
"The start is going to be crucial and hopefully we are going in a good stead to hit our straps early on in the competition."