Ospreys steer clear of A-word as they plot Bulls’ downfall

The Ospreys shocked the Stormers this past weekend with a 27-21 victory. | BackpagePix

The Ospreys shocked the Stormers this past weekend with a 27-21 victory. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 23, 2024


Leighton Koopman

The Ospreys won’t mention the word altitude as they prepare to take on the Bulls in a crunch United Rugby Championship (URC) clash for both sides in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

After some good plans to halt the Stormers’ attacking game bore fruit this past weekend in Cape Town, the Welsh club heads to the Jakaranda City looking for a fourth win and a clean sweep over South African sides.

The Ospreys shocked the Stormers this past weekend with a 27-21 victory. | BackpagePix

They have secured victories so far over the Stormers (27-21) and the Lions (38-28) on local soil, while they also triumphed over the Sharks (19-5) in Swansea early in the season.

Now, it’s the scalp of the Bulls they are hunting to mark a very successful tour. But with that, the visitors know a different type of game awaits them at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

They know an afternoon on the highveld will demand something more from them as Cape Town felt like home conditions with the chilly weather suiting their game.

For the Bulls, the equation is simple; they will have to keep the Ospreys forwards moving to tire them out, and once they’ve worked the ball up through a few phases, the gaps will open up for their backs to run with freedom. They can’t make the same mistakes the Stormers did and think they can sling the ball around from the kick-off.

The Bulls need a win after falling to Munster, and they can do the Stormers and Lions a favour at the same time by beating their Welsh opponents who are fighting for a top-eight place.

Toby Booth, Ospreys head coach, emphasised that they won’t be too focused on the thin air that could play a role.

“We don’t mention the A-word here, I don’t know what that is,” he said about the altitude and its effect on his side against the Bulls.

“We know the mind games of altitude and the stuff that goes along with it. We beat the Lions earlier this year and got rid of that voodoo. Our supporters made a GIF about me pointing to the altitude sign (after their Ellis Park win) and they thought it was funny, it was very embarrassing for me.

“There are certain places you go and there is a reason they make a sign like that, they are trying to play with your head. But you can have that resilience and toughness to understand and rise above it.

“People will talk about playing at altitude and some people are conditioned to it, but we are not. We just have to get on with it. We will find a way, that is what we do.”

Booth added that if he must make substitutions a bit earlier, so be it. He said they will have to be smart about how they deploy their bench, and their recovery at half-time come Saturday.

But that is the good thing about coaching, they had already started planning for the Bulls onslaught long before they clinched the victory down in Cape Town.

“From a coach’s point of view we are always working a week ahead and we’ve done our prep on the Bulls. We know what we need to do.

“We must be in the best physical and mental position to do that (get the win). The Bulls lost and they will be highly committed.

“So, it will be extremely challenging. We will give it our best shot.”