The Pressure Game

Speaking after Leinster had knocked the Cell C Sharks out of the URC, Director of Rugby Neil Powell pointed to the way the Irish side put pressure on their opponents and never relent to force mistakes and then capitalise on those.

“Leinster are a quality team and they get on top of you when you make any mistake and then punish you for that.  In their last few games, we’ve seen how they put pressure on their opponents to concede yellow cards. In the previous four matches, they pressured their opponents into conceding seven yellow cards, so we knew coming into this match that they play that kind of pressure game that forces you to make mistakes and then concede yellow cards, and they did that to us.

“It was frustrating conceding those yellow cards, but that’s an indication of what a good team they are. They get on top of you and stay on top of you and then capitalise on your mistakes. We definitely felt that in this game.”

Having opened the scoring early on, there were encouraging signs from the Cell C Sharks, but Leinster were brutal in the way they took charge of the game and never allowed the Durban side to reduce the scoreboard pressure.

“Rugby is a game of momentum and positive energy and if you take your opportunities, it gives you positivity and a bit of momentum. We had that opportunity to score 5m from their tryline but didn’t and that was a big momentum and mental swing.

“Again, just before half-time, we had another opportunity and didn’t take it, and that’s what makes Leinster such a good team, they take those opportunities.  Unfortunately we couldn’t.

“And then conceding that yellow card and two tries during that period which is always going to be tough with 14 men against a quality side like Leinster.”

Powell admitted that his team – and the three others from South Africa – will have to adapt in the future to the travel schedule in the competition. Purely from a numbers game, there is no other way around the fact that they have more intercontinental travel than the other 14 teams.

“The travel has been tough, on all the South African sides, and we knew coming to Dublin to beat Leinster would not be easy.

“Where the European teams only travel to South Africa once, we’ve come to the northern hemisphere four or five times in the competition which makes it tough.

“But we knew that coming into the competition, we would obviously like a more even playing field, but we just have to make it work, that’s what South Africans are known for. I think they are looking at it to see how they can make it better for the South African sides.

“But one of the lessons we learned from this competition, if you want to play in the knock-out stages, you have to play at home and that means being a lot better during the group stages to make sure you finish higher up on the log.”

Despite the challenges faced, Powell admitted that playing in this new competition was a positive for South African rugby.

“This competition is really good for South African rugby, we face a different style every weekend, the same with playing in the Heineken Cup, you’re also facing different brands and styles of rugby.  With us coming to Europe and playing in different conditions we didn’t really face in Australia or New Zealand, we’re using our own conditions in South Africa to our advantage.

“I think it is great for South African rugby but I think we’ll only know for sure after the Rugby World Cup!”