Fitness base no concern at high altitude: Byrne

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

What's the best way to get past the physical consequences that come with playing 4600 metres above sea level?

If you ask Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne, it's a put up or shut up equation.

Address it, adapt to it and then, most importantly, get on with the job.

That's the approach that the Wallabies will be taking when they face the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning (AEST), anyway.

"Obviously, you can't hide away from the fact that altitude's a different atmosphere," Byrne said.

"But I think the players, you get used to it pretty quickly and adapt to it pretty quickly.Jordan Uelese is one Wallaby with very little experience at altitude. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"The big one is, it's not at the front of your mind.

"You set your protocols before you come here, you know what you're doing and then when you get here, you just get on with it.

"It's not something you talk about, it's not something you bring top of mind but it's certainly something you plan before you come here and you just get on with your life."

As easy as that may sound, many a Test has been lost on South African soil due to a lack of petrol at the death.

Fitness has been a hot topic in Australian rugby since Michael Cheika put it on the agenda in June and Byrne believes the Wallabies now have the base required to put in the hard yards come crunch time in Bloemfontein.

"It's going to be a help every week, but I guess if you're looking for more oxygen and you're not fit, you're in trouble," he said.


"If you're fit you'll be OK. Getting a good base of work, which we did in that August window, has set us up for the year really well.

"We're still not there, we've still got work to do but what we did in that window and how hard the players worked, we've seen some good results."

Byrne, who worked with the All Blacks through three World Cup campaigns before returning to take his current role, also pointed to that fitness base as part of the reason the All Blacks have had far more success in South Africa than any other side.

"They've been a pretty good team in that window - that usually helps," he said.

"But I also think their levels of fitness have been at a high level and they back themselves in that area.

"We're in that stage now where we've just got to - the mentality is we've got to back ourselves and just get on with lifeThe Wallabies put in plenty of hard yards in August. Photo: Getty Images"I know S&C coaches will have a crack at me but it isn't rocket science.

"They talk about it being science but I didn't have a lot of sports science around me when I played and we were able to get fit - tt's about hard work.

"The good thing about it is making sure you're looking after the loading of the players in-season

"That's our challenge.

Maintaining fitness and keeping your fitness while playing games through load of training is a management area and I think we've got our head around that and we're doing a good job."

The Wallabies take on the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning, kicking off at 1am AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.