Tuesday 27 September 2016

Strauss: We must channel hurt of Ulster 'humiliation'

Marcus O Buachalla

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

‘I am so invested here now. I am in Dublin, in Leinster since 2009 and I’ve bought into the culture, the environment, the place itself,’ says Richard Strauss Photo: Sportsfile
‘I am so invested here now. I am in Dublin, in Leinster since 2009 and I’ve bought into the culture, the environment, the place itself,’ says Richard Strauss Photo: Sportsfile
Richardt Strauss: "We saw at first-hand how good the Connacht scrum is a few weeks back in Galway yet look at the trouble Treviso caused, and it was the scrum that led to the kick that Hayward kicked from half-way." Photo: Sportsfile

Trying to dissect any defeat isn't pleasant at the best of times but a 30-6 loss to your neighbours is an unenviable job. But that was the task facing Richardt Strauss and his team-mates this week as they look to bounce back from the defeat to Ulster.

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Strauss has seen many a good day in a Leinster jersey but as he gets ready to face Treviso in a game that will decide Leinster's play-off venue, he doesn't spare his words about the loss to Ulster and uses the word "humiliated" on a number of occasions.

"That's the way I feel. The loss hurt. Hugely," he says. "Will it do us any good getting upset by it though? No, because we have to look to Treviso now and channel that hurt in the right way, but you look at how the season is shaping up and would you like another crack at them? Yes of course.

"I think it's in the back of everyone's mind. Not to the front because we can't lose focus on this weekend but we are all proud players, proud Leinster players, and that hurt.

"So of course you would like to address that and if we got that opportunity this season all the better."

Coped

While the 30-6 scoreline doesn't make for pleasant reading there is also the other side to the coin. At 10-6 at the break, Leinster were very much in the game, having coped well with Rob Kearney's sin-binning.

"Absolutely. We were in the game. We certainly weren't dominating or playing to our potential but we were in it and certainly felt that there was more to come from us in that second half," says Strauss.

"You have to also give huge credit to Ulster. They didn't let us play. They were very much in our faces and they deserved their win but we have to be better."

So what went wrong?

"I think if we look back on it we had two chances. One before half-time and one after half-time where we had opportunities to pick off a score and we didn't convert either in very similar circumstances. I think that got into our heads a little and it maybe sucked some of the momentum out of us.

"Then Luke (Fitzgerald) goes to the sin-bin and we were a little flat. Ulster exploited that space really well but again I'd like to think that we could have been better in the lead-up to that moment. But we weren't.

"So for Treviso this week, I don't think it's about massive system issues, we just have to be better. Look after our detail, stop giving away cheap possession. If we can do that we'll be okay."

This time last season, Leinster saw out the season with a top six position secure but with no chance of a top four placing. Treviso came to the RDS and made life very difficult in the last home game of the season. There is more at stake this time. For both teams.

"They do that. When it is all on the line for them - as it is on Saturday with Champions Cup qualification at stake - they can really front up," says Strauss.

"They had nine players in the Italy Six Nations squad but they have others as well with plenty of senior experience.

"They know that a strong finish to the season could get them that slot. That's huge. It means more revenue and the chance to attract more players to the club. Everyone scraps for that and we saw that last week against Connacht when they never gave up and kept fighting until the end.

"They are fighting for everything right now and that's a dangerous thing for us to be facing."

Strauss is referring to the last-minute Jayden Hayward penalty that secured an unlikely victory for Treviso against the table toppers.

"We saw at first-hand how good the Connacht scrum is a few weeks back in Galway yet look at the trouble Treviso caused - it was the scrum that led to the kick that Hayward kicked from half-way," says Strauss.

"So they have a pack that can trouble you, a very decent set-piece and a kicker that can punish us if we show the same indiscipline that cost us against Ulster."

The 30-year-old hooker played the full 80 minutes against Treviso last season, coming up against Italy international Davide Giazzon, so he knows well what to expect.

"In that game everything started so well with that Jamie (Heaslip) try but we only managed to add another three points over the 80 so even when you are in a game and on the up they can cause you problems. "

Back to last weekend, though, and a chance to look forward to the summer.

For 46 minutes in Belfast, Strauss went toe to toe with Ireland captain Rory Best. Best will lead the Irish squad to South Africa this summer. For the Pretoria-born Strauss, the chance to tour the country of his birth is something he would love to experience.

"There are a few of us in the set-up now that are South African-born so it will be interesting to see how that is received in Cape Town, but look first and foremost I have to get on the plane, and that is no easy task," he says.

"So I have to focus on the next few weeks with Leinster but would I like to be there? Of course.

Conflicted

"It would be a hugely proud moment for me if I did get that chance and my parents would enjoy it, even if they might be a little conflicted!"

No such conflicts for their son, though.

"No, not at all. I am so invested here now. I am in Dublin, in Leinster since 2009 and I've bought into the culture, the environment, the place itself. All of my rugby memories, or certainly the highlights, are here in a blue or a green jersey.

"I can't escape the fact that South Africa is where I was born and it will be good to visit the family farm and spend some time there, but there is no divided loyalty or any sense of conflict in my mind.

"I'm very proud to wear the Irish jersey and if I get to wear it against South Africa it will certainly be one of the highlights of my career, but I will be looking to get that win the same as any other game. Well maybe just a little bit more!"

Irish Independent

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