Written by Joe Harvey #MLR2023 pic.twitter.com/9A3FCVYcLi
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“We need to be patient, we need to be realistic, we need to be honest with each other, and we are heading somewhere positive. That’s great.”
As eluded to by du Plessis, there have been a number of new arrivals in New Orleans during the offseason. With head coach, Kane Thompson, getting a full offseason to determine what a team in his image would look like, it has been a significant change.
Appointed just prior to the 2022 season getting underway, Thompson’s promotion from assistant coach to the lead act was a sudden one. Recruiting from his native New Zealand, Thompson has created an impressive side and unearthed some new stars.
For example, Tom Florence has been a revelation in the back-row, while the versatile Australian, Jordan Jackson-Hope, has also impressed regularly.
Photo by Craig Boudreaux
“There is always going to be positives and negatives,” du Plessis said. “We lost some players that had been here for a very long time and had given a lot to the club.
“But it is always good to have new faces, and we have got a lot of talent on board. That’s great. Everyone understands where we are a lot better and where we’re heading.
“I think the new players we have signed, we knew what every player had to bring and what was expected.
“Kane has been a part of the set-up for a long time. He had a bit more time to prepare for this season and signed players he knew could play in our system.
“The only challenge we had was just finding that synergy between everyone, and I think that was the main thing. The confidence is growing in the team, and that’s good.”
Next up in NOLA’s quest to end the long drought for postseason rugby is Rugby ATL. Playing their Eastern Conference rivals Rugby ATL for a second time this season, it is a chance to learn from the errors of that earlier defeat.
A victory would strengthen the Gold’s aim of reaching the playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season, the team currently in a deadlock with this Saturday’s visitors.
But while ATL are the focus this weekend, that aim of reaching the Eliminator round or a Conference final is never entirely out of mind.
Photo by Craig Boudreaux
Such a significant wait for knockout rugby can potentially come to an end in the weeks to come, with plenty having to go NOLA’s way; du Plessis, for one, believes that he and his teammates are on the road to success.
“In all honesty, the confidence that has grown within the squad these past weeks is something special,” du Plessis said.
“I think off the field, we have got a special group here, and if we continue the way we are going, I think we have got a really solid chance of fighting for a top spot and then doing for the Championship.
“I think, as the group will tell you, you get that feeling within a team. We have got everything we need this year to do it. There are no excuses for us.
“It is just about individuals really buying in and doing what they need to do to buy into the system, doing their extras and buying into what the coaches expect from us and then growing together as a team.
“I think we are definitely on the way there, and I strongly believe we have a chance this season.”
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