Thursday 16 August 2018

Player Diary: We must perform in eight-pointer against dangerous Cheetahs side

Jarrad Butler
Jarrad Butler

John Muldoon

This is something very different. Going away after a poor performance against Zebre, we didn't need anyone to tell us that we needed a performance. We were very disappointed in the result and performance.

We didn't show an awful lot until the last 20 minutes and that was very frustrating. We went over to Benetton trying to get some pride back.

Going over to Italy was all about getting a performance, but also winning the game. It wasn't pretty and we made some mistakes but we got the job done.

That set us up well for our travel. We spoke about getting the result to make it easier. It's always easier getting up in the morning when you have that win.

We left Treviso at noon on Sunday and headed for Venice. Thankfully we flew business class, which made it that bit more comfortable. We had a four-hour stopover in Dubai and then went on to Johannesburg.

It was nice, everyone got a bit of sleep and we were well fed and well rested. We got to Johannesburg and then the last leg of the journey was a throwback to the old days. It was an Aer Arann-type flight up to Bloemfontein.

Landscape

We got in at about 5pm on Monday. It gave the lads a chance to see some of the landscape and what the place was about. It's very apparent that it's different.

There is a large shanty town on the edge of Bloemfontein which is a big culture shock for some fellas who have never been to South Africa.

Then you come through the town and it's like from the movies 20 or 25 years ago. It's very different for guys who haven't experienced it up close and personal.

On Monday night we went through our due diligence. We have a security officer here who has worked with Super Rugby teams in the past. Kieran Keane knows him through the Chiefs. He set that up, and he looks after our itinerary throughout.

It's really just about looking after our belongings and making sure we keep our eyes open for petty crime. You just can't take things for granted over here.

We had a good week. We got through our sessions fine, albeit in very warm temperatures on and off the pitch. We wanted to acclimatise and get used to it.

We chose to come here to Bloemfontein straight away, while other teams like Leinster stayed in Cape Town and only flew in the night before. We chose to come down and get used to the lack of oxygen.

I was in Johannesburg a few years ago and the country has changed a lot even since then.

We have met some very nice people in the hotel, and it's been a real pleasure.

We got a chance to do a safari as a team on Wednesday, and we went to dinner as a group a few times, so we got that bit of bonding in which is a crucial part of it.

But everyone speaks about the altitude factor when they talk about facing Cheetahs in their backyard. I have had the unfortunate pleasure of playing in Johannesburg a few years ago and likewise in Denver, Colorado.

So far I don't think it's as bad as Denver, it is taxing but Denver seemed higher up and more difficult to deal with.

But it's an excuse if you want it to be an excuse and that's the way you have to look at it.

The game will be kicking off at 7.35pm in the evening South African time so hopefully heat won't be as big of a factor as during the day.

We have trained in the middle of the day. By the time the game comes tomorrow evening we should be well adjusted to it.

There is no doubt that Cheetahs are a very good attacking side. And if you give them the time and space they hurt you.

We have to be smart in what we do and we don't want to give them huge opportunities to run the ball. If we fall into that trap we will be in big trouble regardless of other factors.

We must make sure that when we kick we do it well and on our terms, not when we are sucking air, which undoubtedly we will be at stages.

The disappointing thing now is we could have moved very close to Cheetahs this weekend. But defeat to Zebre a couple of weeks ago means there is still a bit of gap. This game is still an eight-pointer and it would be great to get a win over here.

A lot of us are treating this trip like the one we made to Siberia in 2015-16. We are enjoying each other's company and time together. You can get a lot of really good work done together. You are with each other in the evening time so you can come up with extra options in lineouts.

If we are in Galway we would head home in the evening time. But here we can meet up and do those extras. We can come up with some ideas and explore ones that have been left on the back burner for a while.

We are taking it in our stride and cannot wait to pit our wits against Cheetahs tomorrow evening.

Irish Independent

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