Press Pass: Blair on Lions
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with media ahead of Friday night’s United Rugby Championship Round 4 match against Emirates Lions at DAM Health Stadium.
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On the team’s two-week tour to South Africa
“Lots of positives but just not enough to get the two games over the line.
“Against the Bulls, we have them too much at the start but showed incredible resilience and skill to get back into that game, and into a position where we could have and should have won the game.
“In the Stormers game as well, there was lots of positive bits in it but just not quite ruthless enough.
“It probably took us too long to capitalise on the sin-binning in terms of gathering points.
“Then, having kept them contained pretty much the whole half in terms of not allowing them any speed of ball, but just before half-time we did which resulted in a line-break, yellow-card and a try on the back of that.
“So, lots of positive bits but a fair few frustrations as well about not just taking that next step.”
On taking confidence from the tour
“I think it is always giong to be a tough time to go to South Africa.
“It is potentially a little bit unfortunate in that the Bulls don‘t have a lot of Springboks in their team so they were fully loaded for us, and then the Stormers were able to bring a fair few internationals back into their team for our game because the Rugby Championship was over.
“But, as I say, it is always going to be a difficult time to go to South Africa.
“It is a good time for us in a way because it allows us to get together as a group and spend more time with each other.
“It is a shame that that is the last trip to South Africa until maybe a play-off game or into next season because we really enjoy going there.”
On returning to DAM Health Stadium this Friday night
“We’re really looking forward to it. We loved the Dragons game, being back in front of our crowd and getting them behind us.
“It’s club appreciation tonight so an extra bit of motivation for the guys there, but really looking forward to the game.
“The home games are really important to us. We built a lot of momentum through our home fixtures last year, not losing until the end of the season.
“The guys love playing at home with the crowd getting behind us so we want to give them something to cheer about.
“The weather is looking pretty windy at the moment. It’s going to be a tough week for training but we’ve got to find a way to take on this South Africa team and come out with the points.
“The fact that we’ve got a couple of home fixtures in a row hopefully gives us a little bit of momentum.”
On Emiliano Boffelli
“He was back last week getting his visa and everything sorts out, so he’ll be in training tomorrow and we’ll see how he is from there.
“We’ll see how he is on(Tuesday. He got through the internationals very well, played well. Doesn’t appear to have come back with any injury issues at all. We’ve got training on Tuesday and Wednesday and we’ll see how he integrates back into the group.
“I saw most of his games in the Rugby Championship and he’s playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. His goalkicking has been excellent over the piece and his high ball work has been good too.
“He’s been able to get his hands on the ball a bit more which is great. He’ll come back to us with lots of confidence. He’ll have a chance to play on Friday.”
On injury updates
“Mark Bennett is okay. It is probably taking a little bit longer to assess the injuries from the game with the travelling, but the guys are in this week with the physio and we should get a report on how they are all getting on.
“No long-term issues, but certainly a few bumps and bruises from the two games.
On what the squad have learned from facing South Africa sides back-to-back
“They are big physical men, and you need to stop their momentum in attack and deal with them moving around in defence as well.
“It’s not always that you can play through a team as physical as they are, so you’ve got to have your smarts about you, you have to be switched on and sharper than the opposition to make the most of the opportunities when they arise.”
On the Emirates Lions form
“They’ve been excellent haven’t they? They’ve just got this never-say-die attitude about them.
“They’re a really cohesive group who work really hard for each other and have sprinklings of stardom in there as well.
“Like the Stormers and the Bulls they’re a big physical side. You’ve got to be able to match them and get at least parity in the set piece. And then look to be smart around how you manipulate them.
“They’ve made good strikes. They were good last year and very difficult to beat at home in Johannesburg.
“We felt that we could have done a little bit better out there. But they’re certainly a team playing with cohesion and confidence at the moment.”