The Irish province started their two-game trip to the Southern Hemisphere with a 33-30 win over the Emirates Lions last weekend and they will look to complete a clean sweep when they face off against the Cell C Sharks this coming Saturday, kick-off 3:05 PM Irish time in the United Rugby Championship.
Wilkins is confident that the confidence gained from the win over the Lions, plus the atmosphere around the training camp will stand them in good stead for not only the rest of this season but into next season as well.
“It is a different atmosphere,” Wilkins said when asked whether the South African training camps provide a different impetus for players and coaches.
“I think you get a nice blend because you get many more touchpoints with the players across the week. Whether that’s in the hotel or popping for a coffee downstairs or even just bumping into them(the players) in the shopping mall we’re part of here in the hotel in Durban."
The social aspect of the tour, with the players and coaches getting to know each other better in a non-rugby context, is also beneficial, admits Wilkins, who also shared that certain players are treating the South African trip like a mini pre-season and using the time to work on certain skillsets.
“You’re sitting with different people at mealtimes, you wouldn’t be eating three meals a day together normally, so there are a lot more touchpoints with the players across the week,” he said.
“Some of those conversations are getting to know each other better in a non-rugby context but a lot of it is around rugby and those informal conversations. That is a massive help.
“So it is beneficial, I think there’s a chance to work with individual players on skillsets and mindsets and little projects for a week or two across the tour, but there is also the chance to talk rugby and try and share some of that rugby education, in terms of how they look at the game, how they look at the training sessions and getting their feedback on that. “
Wilkins, meanwhile, expects a big physicality from the Sharks but said the Connacht players are eager to rise to the challenge.
“Sharks are a real interesting blend. We see real power and effectiveness on their set-piece game, scrum line out and maul are particularly strong, whether it's on their own ball or in terms of pressurizing opposition ball. That will be an enormous challenge for us, but one I know the lads are excited about, having had a taste of that physicality and that scrum against the Lions last week.
“We’ve certainly got elements of our game that we feel will be really effective, particularly aspects of that that we have practiced this week. If we can get that detail out there at the weekend, I think we could cause them some real problems."