At the start of a busy festive period that will see the Ospreys play three RaboDirect PRO12 games in just nine days, Head Coach Steve Tandy has challenged his players to make it a productive time and cement their place in the play-off spots.
The Scarlets are first up over Christmas, with the biggest Liberty Stadium crowd in two years already confirmed for the local derby on Boxing Day (KO 5.30pm) before the short trip up the M4 on New Year’s Eve to face the Dragons ahead of another home game, against Zebre, at the Liberty on Friday 4th January (KO 7.05pm), and with the Ospreys currently sitting just outside the top four Tandy knows it’s a crunch time for their title defence.
“We’ve got three tough games coming up and it’s vital that we take something from each one of them” he said.
“We are still playing catch-up a little, because of the losses in the first three weekends and the good form of some of the other teams up near the top, so we can’t afford anymore slip-ups.
“We know that the derby matches will be full-on, passionate affairs in front of big crowds and that’s fantastic for the league and for the players, but we’ll have to remain in control of our emotions and make sure we stick to the game-plan if we are going to get our reward."
The festive derby against the Scarlets is always one of the highlights of the season and Tandy says everybody at the Ospreys is looking forward to doing battle with their nearest and dearest once again.
“It’s going to be a great occasion to be a part of as it always is. There’s a big crowd there and they’ll create a brilliant atmosphere. Everybody involved with the Ospreys and the Scarlets looks forward to this game and you know that come Boxing Day it will be electric at the Liberty Stadium.
“It’s fantastic that traditions like this still have a place in the modern game. It’s something to savour, especially for the younger players who may be experiencing it for the first time. Our fans have been brilliant this season, they’ve got behind the cause and really supported their region, and we know that will be the same on Boxing Day.
“Our approach to the game has to take all that into account, but ultimately, what is most important to us as a team is that we put in a good performance, we build on what we did against Toulouse last weekend, not just on Boxing Day but against the Dragons as well, and then when we come back to the Liberty to play Zebre. If we can hit the same consistent level of performance across these three matches I’m confident that we’ll be in a good place when the PRO12 breaks for Europe again.”
With so many games in such a short period of time the Ospreys will no doubt be reliant on squad depth to see them through the Christmas period, something Tandy says he is comfortable with.
“We’ve seen in recent weeks, with the injuries we’ve had, the quality of young players coming through here” insisted Tandy.
"That’s been a huge positive for us. Look at the teams that we fielded against Toulouse and you’ll see plenty of local young talent, which is something we pride ourselves on as Ospreys.
“We are going to have to use the squad, change things about, over the next two weeks. We can’t expect the same players to start every game, but we have faith in what we are doing here and what we’ve got available. It’s a long season, and although this is a crucial nine day period we can’t risk anyone so there will be changes, but we’ve shown time after time throughout 2012 that we have the players to come in and perform to the highest level.”
Tickets for the Scarlets game, as well as the home match against Zebre, remain on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, via the Ticket Hotline on 0844 815 6665 and online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets.