Springbok scrum half Ricky Januarie is a man on a mission as he tries to fill the boots of the man he battled against during last summer's British & Irish Lions tour on his brief sojourn in European rugby.
Less than a year ago the Stormers scrum half was studying Mike Phillips in order to try to get the better of him in the Test series. Now he is head down in the Ospreys play book looking to take over Phillips’ role at the Welsh region.
Januarie was airlifted into the frozen north from his South African summer break at incredibly short notice when the Ospreys lost their three Heineken Cup scrum halves, as well as their main cover, Shane Williams. His short-term appointment has one main aim – to steer his new side into the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.
“My mission is to set the Ospreys on their way into the knock-out phase of the Heineken Cup before heading back home to play for the Stormers,” he said.
“It is a very competitive rugby environment and, with the quality of players they have in the squad at the Ospreys, it is almost the same as being at home. The one difference has been the weather. I’m used to summer at this time of year and when I left Cape Town it was 31 degrees. My wife and kids have enjoyed seeing the snow, but the temperature has dropped to -6 degrees and lower.”
Having been pressed into emergency service in the Heineken Cup clash in Italy against Viadana shortly after arriving in Europe, Januarie emerged with flying colours as he scored a try in a 62-7 win. There was another bonus point win over the Italians a week later and the 40-times capped scrum half enhanced his reputation by then helping to steer the Ospreys temporarily to the top of the Magners League with vital wins over the Scarlets and Blues.
“Its been pretty easy to fit in because I know a few of the players through Super 14 and Tri Nations experience, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah and Jamie Nutbrown, and the style of game the Ospreys play is similar to the Stormers,” said Januarie.
“I know that Mike Phillips is a great player and I’ve had firsthand experience of playing against him for Wales and the Lions. I’m filling some big shoes, but then that has always been the case in South Africa with Fourie du Preez on the scene. I’m just relishing every challenge I’m getting. I’m not trying to be a big star, I’m just playing my normal game. I know how big the Heineken Cup is to the teams in this part of the world. We have to play ASM Clermont Auvergne this weekend and it is going to be a crucial game for us.
“They are a top team who have just moved into first place in France’s Top 14, so it is going to be a very big match. But it suits me playing games at this time of year because it means when I go back to the Stormers at the end of the month I will be battled hardened for the season ahead.”
The Ospreys face Leicester Tigers in the final Pool 3 match the following weekend (Sat 23rd Jan, 1.35pm KO) at the Liberty Stadium. A bumper crowd is expected, so to make sure you don't miss out on tickets, make sure you get yours now!
They are available to buy at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online at www.ospreysrugby.com or by calling the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004.