Rugby Union

Brumbies and Wallabies star David Pocock's unconventional off-season in Zimbabwe

White rhinos, running next to rangers who carry guns and throwing grown men over your shoulders for a quick work out - welcome to rugby union pre-season David Pocock style.

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The rhino-saving Wallaby

There's no rest for David Pocock during the off-season, as the Wallabies star spends his holidays training with the Malilangwe scouts, a group of men in charge of protecting the rhinos of Zimbabwe.

In a world away from the speculation about his ACT Brumbies future and his World Cup heroics, Pocock has turned to a unique training regiment to utilise his time in Zimbabwe to get up close with rhinos in the wild as well as maintaining his fitness.

Pocock ran alongside anti-poaching scouts - with some carrying weapons as part of their job - in Malilangwe as he spent time at the Sango Lodge in the Save Valley Conservancy learning about the efforts to protect white rhinos.

Powerful: David Pocock with the Malilangwe scouts.
Powerful: David Pocock with the Malilangwe scouts.  Photo: Instagram

The star openside flanker is on leave from rugby duties after a hectic year, during which he confirmed his standing as one of the world best players and proved there were no lingering affects after two knee reconstructions.

He will return to Brumbies training on January 4 with the rest of the squad's World Cup contingent, but for now he's lifting weights in Zimbabwe and carrying men on his back to stay in peak condition.


Most players spend their holidays on a beach to recover from a long year on the field.

Pocock prefers to immerse himself in different cultures and has been working with the Save African Rhino Foundation on his trip.

David Pocock in a makeshift gym in Zimbabwe.
David Pocock in a makeshift gym in Zimbabwe. Photo: @pocockdavid

All Brumbies players are given a fitness program to follow when they're not in Canberra and Pocock has been speaking with Super Rugby coach Stephen Larkham.

"Poey is a pretty body conscious sort of guy, he knows what he can handle and what his body needs," Larkham said.

Pic from David Pocock Twitter account in Zimbabwe, Pocock has been training with the anti-poaching scouts - some who ...
Pic from David Pocock Twitter account in Zimbabwe, Pocock has been training with the anti-poaching scouts - some who were carrying guns - in Malilangwe, Zimbabwe. Photo: Supplied

"He's got a program that [athletic performance director Ben Serpell] sent out, he's got his time do what he wants and by the looks of it he's staying naturally fit.

"I don't think the program specifically said to carry a guy on his shoulders."

I don't think the program specifically said to carry a guy on his shoulders.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham

Pocock spent a week in the Zimbabwean lowveld, getting to know the anti-poaching scouts and managing to get within 20 metres of a white rhino and its calf.

David Pocock.
David Pocock has re-signed with the Brumbies and the ARU on a three-year deal that will allow him to take a 12-month sabbatical in 2017. Photo: AP

The Save African Rhino Foundation raises money to provide equipment to protect the animals as poachers target them for their horn.

His journey in Africa came as the remaining Brumbies squad set personal best time in sprint trials at pre-season training in Canberra.

Larkham said intensity had increased and "everyone is motivated" as the club sets its sights on its first Super Rugby title since 2004.

"Breaking training up is good, that's why guys have enforced period of rest to keep them fresh physically and mentally," Larkham said.

"The mental break is what helps them more than anything."

Pocock is overseas while Argentina recruit Tomas Cubelli will arrive on Monday with playmaker Christian Lealiifano returning to training next week and winger Henry Speight joining the Australian team for the Dubai sevens.

Speight will juggle Australian sevens duties and Super Rugby responsibilities next year as he aims for a selection for the Rio Olympic Games.

The Brumbies have negotiated with the sevens program to secure Speight's services for the opening rounds of Super Rugby, but it remains unclear how often he will be available beyond that.

The flying Fijian is looking to drop a couple of kilograms from his powerful frame to adapt to the increased fitness required for sevens.

Speight was also part of Australia's World Cup squad, but played just one game at the tournament.

"My next goal is making the team to Rio next year," Speight said.

"I'm looking to play well in the world series [in Dubai] and build into Rio. There are a lot of teams competing for the gold medal and our focus is the same - to win gold.

"Sevens and 15s are completely different games. The main work-ons for me at the moment is conditioning and getting used to the sevens groove and get my body used to the high loads of running.

"I'll try to get into sevens fitness and if I can get that it will set me up. The biggest transition for me is getting my body back down a few kilos. I feel like a new kid on the block in this team. It's refreshing and I can't wait."

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