This weekend Connacht play their first of two BKT United Rugby Championship matches in South Africa. On Saturday its a trip to the Danie Craven Stadium against the champions DHL Stormers (k/o 1.30pm).
Last weekend, Connacht tasted defeat in their first outing of the 2022/23 URC season away to Ulster. Head coach Pete Wilkins feels there are key lessons learned from the game at Kingspan.
“We aren’t alarmed by the loss it as its first game of the season in what will be a long season”
“For sure we could have played better so there’s plenty of learning to take from it’
“We just didn’t apply pressure when we got those opportunities in the attacking half”
“Six penalties conceded right after half time is where the game was won and lost, so there are key lessons to take from it”
“I think we didn’t play our best rugby but the important thing from Saturday is we get better and don’t make the same mistakes”
Rather than head back to Galway, the team travelled to Dublin from Belfast where they trained at the Irish Rugby High Performance Centre in Abbotstown before flying to South Africa on Monday. Pete spoke about the mood in the camp before taking off.
“The mood is positive, there is an acknowledgement that we didn’t play well on Saturday but its the perfect scenario as we could chat to the players straight away when we got back to the hotel from Kingspan”
For the tour to South Africa, Connacht can recall on Irish international players such as Bundee Aki, Cian Prendergast, Finlay Bealham and Mack Hansen.
“Its great to have them and to have them available for selection is brilliant” said Wilkins
“They will add quality to the group but they will also get more quality out of the other players”
One player who still may yet travel to South Africa is Connacht Captain Jack Carty.
“There is a good chance of Jack joining the tour but he won’t available for selection this week so we will see where he’s at for the following week”
This summer saw a shakeup in the coaching setup, one of the new changes is Pete becoming Head coach.
“I’m really enjoying it”
“I was doing a lot of the rugby leg work before but now I get the chance to set the emotional tone for the group and front the team on game day”
“I’ve got a bit more responsibility around how we shape around games and how we react to games”
Last season Connacht travelled to South Africa near the end of the season, so what does Pete make of going early?
“It is a good time to go over as we’re going over with fresh bodies off the back of preseason and not going at the end of the season like we did last season where sometimes it can be tough to get up emotionally and physical for it”
Looking ahead to the game on Saturday, Pete discussed how he sees the game going.
“The Stormers will bring massive physicality as all the South Africans do”
“We’ve identified a few areas where we can go after them regarding our style of play”
“I think it will be an exciting game as you have two teams with exciting back lines”