The 'beauty' of Bloem in summer

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 13:22

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Irish great Conor O'Shea - currently the head coach of the Italian national team - spoke to Jan de Koning about the benefits of the newly launched Pro14.

It is new, it is exciting and it will be a "massive rugby education".

That, in a nutshell, is what is creating the anticipation ahead of the newly launched Pro14 competition.

O'Shea, who played 35 Tests for Ireland, said the tournament will teach players to adapt and be more flexible.

He used the Cheetahs as a perfect example.

One week they will play in Bloemfontein in mid-summer heat and a week later face Treviso in sub-zero temperatures - when it is cold, foggy and snowy.

"That will take some doing, but it is great for their education," the Italian mentor told rugby365.

"You ask players to adapt, adapt their style, adapt their mindset," he said, adding: "That is part of the education.

"The other thing is, it excites.

"Yes, there will be teething problems.

"There are loads of challenges for us in Italian rugby.

"However, with perseverance, with stability and support we will get there.

"Hopefully the way it is structured it will allow the best of both worlds.

"The tradition alone of the Cheetahs makes for excitement.

"With the Kings it is something new that has to be built on and will hopefully survive and thrive."

O'Shea pointed out that when the European Cup started in the mid-1990s, there was a myth about the French sides.

Then teams got to play against them week-in and week-out.

"You then understood the style of play they have.

"I have been fortunate enough to play a Test match in Bloem [Bloemfontein] - a [1995] World Cup match - and that was interesting.

"It will be a great place for people to go.

"The same applies to Port Elizabeth, playing against the Kings.

"It will develop a different mindset for players. They will have to adapt to different conditions [the summer heat of South Africa] and vice versa [the cold of Europe]."

In the Pro14 player welfare is looked after, because the timezone fits.

"There will be teething problems, there will be cynics and there will be sceptics," O'Shea told rugby365.

"I don't listen to them," he said, adding: "I think of myself as a rugby person.

"We also have a huge job to do in Italy.

"Kieran Crowley and Antonio Pavanello are doing a great job at Treviso and there is a great structure to move that club forward.

"The [Italian] Fedederation has just taken Zebre over. There is a long way to go for them, but with the right coaching staff - [Director of Rugby] Michael Bradley and [assistant coach] Carlo Orlandi.

"In time, a bit like the Kings, you will see the challenges being overcome and we will have two very string basis to build Italian rugby from.

"Part of that education will be going to Bloemfontein and getting the living daylights kicked out of you.
"[Cheetahs Director of Rugby] Franco Smith knows Treviso well, but we know the Cheetahs well."

O'Shea said he is a true rugby man and loves the game.

"I am into expansion in a big way," he said, adding: "I know how strong the Pro12 has been, at the very top level - Leinster, Munster, Glasgow.

"However, we saw Connacht come through and win. We also saw Scarlets come through last year and win."

By Jan de Koning

There are currently no matches being played
Sat, 20 January 2018
Montpellier v Leinster 13h00 Altrad Stadium
Glasgow Warriors v Exeter Chiefs 13h00 Scotstoun Stadium
Cheetahs v Kings 15h00 Bloemfontein
Saracens v Northampton Saints 15h15 Allianz Park
Clermont Auvergne v Ospreys 15h15 Stade Marcel-Michelin
Treviso v Bath 17h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Scarlets v Toulon 17h30 Parc y Scarlets
Sun, 21 January 2018
Leicester Tigers v Racing Metro 13h00 Welford Road
Munster v Castres 13h00 Thomond Park
La Rochelle v Harlequins 15h15 Stade Marcel-Deflandre
Wasps v Ulster 15h15 Ricoh Arena
Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Glasgow Warriors 13 12 0 1 58
Munster 13 8 0 5 42
Cheetahs 11 6 0 5 30
Cardiff Blues 13 5 0 8 25
Connacht 13 4 0 9 24
Ospreys 13 4 0 9 21
Zebre 13 3 0 10 17
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 13 11 0 2 53
Leinster 13 11 0 2 51
Ulster 13 8 1 4 40
Edinburgh 13 8 0 5 37
Treviso 13 6 0 7 29
Dragons 13 2 1 10 14
Kings 11 0 0 10 4