With preparations for next week’s PRO12 derby against Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium well underway, Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin has described the clash as “the one that matters"
While the West Wales derby against the Scarlets is considered ‘the big one’ by supporters from the western edge of Ospreylia, for Baldwin, his colleagues from Bridgend, and fans living in the east of the region, the game against the Blues takes on extra importance.
Cardiff visit the Liberty Stadium on Friday 21st March for the third and final home derby of the season, and the Ospreys are looking to compete a clean sweep against their regional rivals, with Baldwin underlining the importance of the game.
“Coming from Bridgend, this has always been the derby for me, the one that matters” he said.
“When you think about it, the county is split between the two regions, and every Ospreys fan in Bridgend knows Blues fans, and Blues fans know Ospreys fans.
“There’s a lot at stake for people in the area anyway but after the defeat in Edinburgh, we’ve got to win, it’s as simple as that, and that makes it an even bigger game. We’ve put that pressure on ourselves and we’ve got to deal with it if we want to reach the play-offs.”
Reflecting on the disappointing defeat in Edinburgh last time out, Baldwin said the setback means the Ospreys have little margin for error between now and the end of the season if they are going to nail down a play-off spot. He continued:
“We really let ourselves down in the first half and, ultimately, gave ourselves too much to do. We trained really well in the week leading up to the game, we felt positive as a group, but we weren’t at the races. That’s unacceptable. As a squad, we know the players who have represented the Ospreys over the years, we understand that the jersey deserves more. It’s important that we do the jersey justice between now and the end of the season.
“I’d say it’s still very much in our hands. We’ve got to put a run of good performances together now, starting against the Blues next week. You couldn’t really ask for a better game to get going could you, a derby at home? There’s a big rivalry and it will spur everybody on.
“Supporters have been really good this year as always. We’ve had some good crowds this year, for the Scarlets, Leinster and Ulster in particular, and it’ll be great if we can get the same kind of crowd next Friday. I know sometimes this season we’ve been able to give them what they want and sent them home happy, sometimes we haven’t, but we will always give everything.
“Hopefully they’ll be behind us for the Blues game, be the 16th man, and hopefully inspire us to a good performance.”
Next up after the Blues is a crunch match up in Scotland against Glasgow, who currently lie just outside the play-off spots, one place and three points behind the Ospreys but with two games in hand. Baldwin highlighted how important that clash has now become, saying:
“Obviously we are targeting a winning performance against the Blues and then Glasgow becomes the crunch game. You can almost say it’s an eight-point game. They’ve got a couple of games in hand, and if we can get the result up there then we can put a little bit of space between us. Lose, and they are in the driving seat for the final four games.
“We’ve got to look at every game now as knockout rugby. We’ve got to handle the pressure and really show what we are capable of, on a more consistent basis.”