He admits rugby certainly took a back seat during the break.
“For seven weeks in lockdown I’ve been busy as and haven’t thought too much about rugby and was wondering why I actually do rugby because I love farming. But when you get back with the boys and get into your work, it reminds you that this is a bit of a privilege to be with a group like this.”
Now he’s back and stuck into training with the Chiefs, Barnes is delighted to see how fit the players are and the intensity and contact has started to ramp up this week.
“We’ve had two days now where the contact is pretty much close to a hundy. It’s a gradual process to make sure we don’t injure anybody on the way back I, but so far so good.
“What’s surprised me is how quickly the players have jumped into it. They are gagging to get into it, and we are trying to control them. The boys are ready to hop into the work, but whether their bodies are or not, they will be telling us with how sore they are.”
The Chiefs haven’t decided yet whether they will be having a full contact internal game before Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off, but they’ve already had a few low-key match ups.
“There’s a bit going on with our trainings with two teams playing against each other, but most of the time it’s just been touch,” said Barnes.
“We are just introducing short spells where its full tackle and breakdowns, but obviously in small amounts. As we get into next week and closer to game week, we will lengthen the period of time that they will be in full contact.”
With 10 weeks and eight New Zealand derbies on the cards, the Chiefs know they’ll have to be smart about player rotation, something they were already doing earlier in the season. Barnes said this ‘second’ preseason has allowed the coaches to address a lot of the smaller detail that they don’t usually get the chance to do in the regular competition.
It’s also meant they have a full group of players to choose from, with international players and guys with bigger workloads back in the mix.
“The pleasing thing is we have our whole squad together. At the end of the day, you can’t be playing the same group week after week with that type of physicality and intensity. You are going to have to use your whole squad. It will be how well individuals prepared. The guys that did their work in the period when we were away have come back in better nick and are definitely well ahead. They will probably be getting the starts.”
The Chiefs are away to the Highlanders in their opening game of Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa, on Saturday 13 June at 5:05pm in Dunedin. All games will be live on Sky Sport.