Tom Habberfield believes the Ospreys are thriving on the challenges presented by their push on two fronts this season, saying the team are in a good place for the final push.
The scrum-half, who skippered the side to victory in Edinburgh on Friday night, praised the team’s maturity to claim a crucial, backs to the wall, win at Myreside that leaves the Ospreys second in the Guinness PRO12 table as the championship breaks for three weeks.
With a first European quarter-final in seven years also on the horizon, it’s going to be a busy end of season run-in, but Habberfield believes the Ospreys will be able to kick-on over the closing months of what has been an exciting season.
Reflecting on Friday’s win, Habberfield said that the nature of the victory was particularly pleasing as it showed the team can win in more than just one way:
“It was a tough evening but we’ve shown again with our defence that we aren’t just about one thing, we can win games in different ways.
“It may not have been a high scoring game like some of them have been this season but we took the one chance that came our way through Sam and Josh and then, I think, we were pretty comfortable in keeping them out.
“We’ve dug in when we had to and showed real maturity to finish the game off when they were going through the phases at our end.”
It’s often said that international windows are where seasons can turn and, this yeasr, the Ospreys’ PRO12 form in those periods has seen a vast improvement on 2015/16. During the Six Nations period, there has been three wins and just the one defeat, following on from two wins in three back in the autumn, allowing the team to cement their place in the play-off spots.
“It’s definitely shown the character in the squad” Habberfield continued.
“Missing so many players through international duty and injury has certainly tested us but we’ve responded positively. Looking back, three wins from four is something we can be pretty satisfied with.
“We were unlucky against Munster, we should have won that one as well, so we could have done four from four. We can’t change that now so there’s no point looking backwards, we have to look forward to the remaining games. We’re in second place so the final push is in our hands which is a good place to be.”
With no games now until the Ospreys travel to Italy to face Benetton Treviso at Stadio Comunale di Monigo on Saturday 25th March, Habberfield said that the core group will enjoy some down time before coming back together next week to refocus on the job in hand:
“We’ll have a little bit of time off this week but then it’s back in next Monday and focus on the next challenge.
“We can’t let up now, we’ve got to keep going, setting the same standard we have all season to get us into the position we are. There are five games left in the league and hopefully we’ll have a couple more in the play-offs so it’s a busy but exciting time for us.
“We’ve done so well we don’t want to let it slip. Ask any player and they’d rather be in the position we are with some big games to come at this time of the season thank thinking about the beach.”
The week after Treviso, there’s also the small matter of a European Rugby Challenge Cup last eight tie against French giants, Stade Francais, to occupy the mind.
Although the tie has been switched from the Liberty Stadium, the venue, Principality Stadium, is a familiar one to most of the Ospreys squad, Habberfield included, having featured in three of the four Judgment Day’s prior to this season.
He said he’s looking forward to returning to a ground where the Ospreys have never lost:
“It’s going to be a different experience, one I’m really looking forward to. It’s another challenge, one that we’re all looking forward to. It’ll be the first European knockout game for most of this squad but they are the kind of games you want to be involved in.
“We’ve got to enjoy the experience, Principality Stadium and everything. It’s a venue we are familiar with, we’ve got a good record there and, hopefully, there’ll be a big crowd there to make it a special occasion for the Ospreys.”
Tickets for the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, against Stade Francais on Sunday 2nd April, and the Guinness PRO12 top of the table clash with Leinster on Saturday 8th April at the Liberty Stadium, are on sale now at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets.