By Ali Stokes
At Hartpury College earlier this week previewing Gloucester's away trip to reigning champions Saracens, former Maori All Black prop Joshua Hohneck revealed that the arrival of South African Head Coach Johan Ackermann rejuvenated his Gloucester career.
"I really enjoyed Johan coming in last year," Hohneck explained. "Freshening things up a little bit, we got close to the sort of game that I know.
"That was quite rejuvenating for me. I was missing Super Rugby a little bit. But yeah, we have a crack when it's on and have that sort of no fear mentality. Obviously, you have to be smart with it, that's what we're working on at the moment, just finding that balance.
"As we get better as a side it will come. But yeah, it's liberating for me so I'm still loving it."
Hohneck is set to go head to head with fellow Gloucester prop Val Rapava Ruskin in competition for a starting role against Premiership champions Saracens this weekend.
While the New Zealander noted that Gloucester's high tempo, high skill game could prove a significant challenge for Saracens' powerful pack, he commended the shape and structure mercurial fly-half Danny Cipriani has brought to the Cherry and Whites' game.
"Cips has added a lot of shape there, so it's about sticking to those and then when the opportunity comes to play rugby, or when you find yourself out of shape but in a position to do something, having the skill set, especially for a tight five forward, to just play what's in front of you.
"Coming where I come from in New Zealand, Super Rugby, you're given a pretty free licence to go and play, so every now and then the opportunity pops up; and again, it might not happen for six or seven games, then you'll find yourself in space throwing long balls, or something ridiculous.
"So you just have to hang on for those ones and they'll come once or twice a season. Then that's your highlight clip for the end of the season."
Gloucester head to Allianz Park this weekend with inform flanker duo Lewis Ludlow and Jake Polledri, two recent success stories of Gloucester's youth identification.
The latest youngsters to make their break in Gloucester's matchday squad are propping duo Alex Seville and Ciaran Knight, two 20-year-old frontrowers and Hartpury College products.
Hohneck admitted there are comparisons to be drawn between his own development in New Zealand and the route laid down for Gloucester’s youth development. The likes of Polledri, Ludlow, Seville and Knight made their marks with Hartpury whilst playing in the Championship, proving their worth in hopes of full-time Premiership contracts.
"We [Gloucester and Hartpury] trained together earlier in the year, that was really interesting and there are some really good boys in there as well.
"I suppose, to them, it's just about doing their bit and chipping away in the Championship. Then when they get their chance, whether it's the next league up, here [Gloucester], or elsewhere, you've just got to take it I suppose.
"The games changed a little bit. That's much the same sort of route that I came through. In New Zealand, you come through club rugby, ITM or Mitre10 Cup, then Super Rugby. You might battle away there for two or three years, sometimes it really feels like a battle. But then you get a break, you see whether you're up to it and whether you're ready to step up.
"I mean, there are some good players in there [Hartpury], if they're willing to put the work in, and get a bit of luck as well, it's massive in sport.
"So there's no reason they can't put a bit of pressure on us. You see the likes of Polledri, he's come into the squad and put a bit of pressure on a few people. It can happen.
"There are some really good athletes, it's about getting them the game time I suppose.
"There are a couple of young boys that train with us that play for Hartpury. Like Alex Craig, Henry Walker and Joe Mullis, they're pretty sharp.
"The thing is, where can they find the opportunities and get a bit of game time. They've just got to bide their time I suppose. Keep putting their best foot forward in training. Eventually, when you're in that position, a break comes or the reality is you go and look at a break elsewhere. That's the nature of sport, isn't it."
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