New forward’s coach Dewald Senekal said the highly committed and professional environment at Connacht Rugby was one of the main factors behind his decision to join the club this summer.
The South African native, a former Bayonne, Toulon, Golden Lions and Agen representative in his playing days, acquired a wealth of coaching experience in the French Top -- plying his coaching trade at Bayonne, Grenoble, and Stade Francais -- before accepting the offer to take the forward coaching reins at the Sportsground.
The Westerners’ ambition to win and to develop was attractive to Senekal, who says that the players’ mindsets and hunger around improving their games has been a notable and positive aspect of his first few months in situ in his new post.
“Through COVID, there was a lot of talk between coaches and a lot of time spent exchanging ideas. Having those discussions with some really good coaches, including some in Ireland, and having visited Munster a few years back on an upskilling mission, I just thought it was a great time for me to come and experience an Irish environment and an Irish professional environment,” he said.
“It was a very big part of my decision, the profile of the team, and what makes me tick as a coach, which is coaching players, helping them, and seeing them progress. That was a big deciding factor for me.
“My experience in this first eleven or twelve weeks of working with the team has been absolutely amazing. This team is immensely talented. Even our selection meetings at the moment are big headaches because we feel there are some really good players -- younger and older -- at the club and trying to choose the right players with the right balance is a positive headache. The hunger of the guys and the professionalism of the guys in the squad has been jaw-dropping for me.”
The defeat to Cardiff last weekend was disappointing, but Senekal is confident there were ample positives to build upon with his ultimate goal for the season to marry a physically dominant pack with the quick, exciting player of the backs.
“If we just look at the process, and what we were trying to achieve, there was a lot of positives to take from it,” the South African said of the defeat at the Cardiff Arms Park.
“I was really happy with our scrum. It’s been going against much bigger packs so far in our pre-season games and our first games and we’re looking to continuously build with that. Obviously, there was some good stuff from the front-rowers in the absence of Denis(Buckley), who obviously has a lot of experience.
“A big work on for us has been around the maul and there have been some good pictures there that are positive. We feel we have the right path and I am sure we will see the fruits of our labour.
“From a team point of view, my goal is to keep growing our players individually and collectively and for us to have a lot of pride in the product that we want to put out there and for people to get excited to see our pack of forwards get rumbling with a really big maul and some big scrums.
“There’s a real, and I feel it from the players, hunger there to produce some really match-winning performances from our forward pack, built on a dangerous, attacking gameplan.”