Reigning Shute Shield rugby union premiers Sydney University will hit the ground running in defence of their title this year, fresh from a tour of Argentina.
A 34-man squad (including coaches and management) will depart for Argentina on February 8 and return home on February 25, with Buenos Aires, Mar Del Plata and Bahia Blanca on the tour agenda.
The Students will play in a round-robin format for the Patagonia Cup against teams from Club El Nacional, Club Universitario, Santa Rosa and Christchurch High School Old Boys, who will be on tour from New Zealand.
The Sydney University squad will be made up of grade and Colts players, who have been busily fund-raising and training for the past six weeks.
First Grade coach Greg Mumm will be in charge of the playing squad, with Colts coach Jack Farrer acting as assistant, while five-eighth Justin Bosilkovski has been voted tour captain with second-rower Dave McDuling acting as vice-captain.
“The tour will be a great benefit to the club by allowing us to trial players and tactics in a competitive environment before the 2010 season,” coach Mumm said.
“While these rugby goals should help prepare the club for the coming season, the cross section of players touring from all grades, including Colts, should provide a great experience for these young men who will hopefully bring that spirit back in to the club. Overall it should be a great trip with a wide range of benefits.”
Among the tour highlights will be a bus tour of Buenos Aires, a beach day at Monte Hermosa, and a farm day experiencing rural life in Argentina. Players will be billeted during the tournament and will be able to explore the beach-side city of Mar Del Plata.
The tour preparation has included training with the Elite Development Squad under the watchful eye of Tim Leahy. The squad commenced training in early November and, apart from a Christmas break, have undertaken three weight and speed sessions, two on-field sessions and a Saturday morning functional strength and fitness session each week.
“We are very lucky at SUFC to attract some of the best players in the country,” Leahy said. “The EDS has been a fundamental part of our players’ preparation. Mirroring the
Super 14 franchises training regime has enabled us to give our players the best the best
foundation to compete at the highest level.
“This year’s EDS has been our most successful yet. We have implied a different schedule of fewer sessions but greater expectation on players to extract the most gains they can from the program. This has resulted in the best speed/power and skinfold numbers we have had at this time of year.”
While the squad members have been training hard, they have also been fund-raising to cover their tour costs. Wallabies Dean Mumm Phil Waugh and Luke Burgess have assisted in this department, while Ascend and Kooga have sponsored the EDS program.
SUFC President David Mortimer said the club is very excited about the tour to Argentina. “Last year we toured New Zealand and gained invaluable experience playing against top sides,” he said. “This tour continues our strategy of giving our players exposure to hard rugby and in an international arena where they develop both their rugby and experience the Argentinean culture.”