The Free Staters were among eight professional teams that returned to the training field in small groups this week, and although they have to follow strict guidelines to ensure the safety of the entire squad, Fourie was clearly excited.

“The first week of training was great,” said Fourie.

“It was a big relief for everyone that we could do skills training, and one can see there is a new vibe among the players and that they are excited to be in the company of their team-mates.

“We work in such a way that the forwards train one day and the backs the following day, and they are split into small groups that train at different times, so although they haven’t seen all their team mates yet, it is a big difference to training individually.”

Fourie welcomed a handful of new players to Bloemfontein in the last few months, two-time Rugby World Cup winner Frans Steyn (utility back), experienced Springbok Sevens star Rosko Specman (winger), Namibian international Louis van der Westhuizen (hooker), Howard Mnisi (centre), Reniel Hugo (utility forward), Andisa Ntsila (looseforward), Carl Wegner (lock) and Reinhardt Fortuin (flyhalf).

“The new players have settled in well,” said Fourie.

“Unfortunately, they haven’t met the whole squad yet, but they will receive that opportunity in time when the squad is allowed to train together again.”

Looking back at their first week on the field, Fourie said: “Our focus this past week and over the next few weeks is to improve the basic skills such as agility and footwork. It is very basic but we have to start somewhere.

“I am pleased with the players’ running fitness levels after lockdown, but obviously contact is different, so when we are allowed to participate in contact training, we will look to work on our contact fitness.

“Gym work is also very important for us at this stage since a lot of players lost muscle mass in the last four months because they didn’t have access to gym and weights, so there is a lot of work ahead to make sure everyone is at the required level in that regard when we start training as a squad.”

Fourie had his fingers crossed that the Currie Cup competition would still take place later this season after the Toyota Free State Cheetahs won the final by 31-28 against the Xerox Golden Lions in Bloemfontein last year: “I am looking forward to the Currie Cup. I think we have a strong squad and we are excited by the prospect of testing ourselves against the other unions at full strength.”