ACT Brumbies first day of pre-season. David Pocock during the sprint tests. Photo: Graham Tidy
A boot camp, a sand pit and a determination to erase their last-round meltdown - the ACT Brumbies are back at training and coach Jake White hopes a renewed hunger will drive his team into the Super Rugby finals.
Three months after the young Brumbies fell at the last hurdle in their finals quest, the team started pre-season training yesterday with speed, strength and endurance tests at the AIS.
The Brumbies' Test representatives weren't exempt from the lung-bursting session with David Pocock, Ben Alexander and Stephen Moore all being pushed to the limit just days before heading to Europe on the Wallabies' spring tour.
It's White's second season in charge of the Brumbies and to prevent his players from getting stale and bored, the South African is contemplating a boot camp at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
There is also a sand pit at Brumbies headquarters for wrestling sessions and rehabilitation running.
''You don't want the players to be bored and feel as if it's the same old, same old,'' White said.
''Maybe we look at ways we can revitalise them in the pre-season, maybe that means going away for a day, team-building exercises or we've got a great army base at Duntroon so we'll look at that.
''We want the players to have fun and not get stale.''
The Brumbies have filled their 35-man roster with White adding scrumhalf Mark Swanepoel and outside back Stephan Van Der Walt to the last two spots available on the extended player squad.
Despite a large chunk of the squad having surgery in the off-season, 25 of the 35 contracted players have started training.
It didn't take long for marquee recruit Pocock to impress. The former Western Force skipper has been training with the Brumbies for the past month after injuring his knee playing for the Wallabies.
But in a sign the flanker is back to full fitness, Brumbies athletic performance director Dean Benton described Pocock as the ''ultimate rugby machine''.
Pocock will battle with Michael Hooper for the Wallabies' No. 7 jersey on the spring tour.
Hooper's speed and endurance are two of his strongest assets and Pocock matched the former Brumby's fastest 10-metre sprint in yesterday's session.
White spent most of the off-season in South Africa and only returned to Canberra last weekend.
Benton - one of the leading athletic performance directors in Australia - is confident two pre-seasons with the young Brumbies will have the players in peak physical conditions.
''We've made gains slightly quicker than I thought we would and this group is one of the best I've worked with,'' Benton said.
''This pre-season will get us to a stage where we can match it with the more physical teams.''
New recruit South African lock Etienne Oosthuizen arrived in Canberra three days ago.
''It's a new beginning with me and I'm working with one of the best coaching staff in the world,'' the former Johannesburg Lions forward said.
''The vibe is the same, everyone is excited and a bit scared, but that's part of pre-season.
''I don't know how the system works yet, but I'm here to learn.''