Former Osprey Ricky Januarie had a chance to catch up with old friends when his new club, Lyon, took on his old one at Stade Marius Berthet last Friday.
The former Springbok has just signed for the French club from Stormers ahead of the new season and made his first appearance for the T14 newcomers in the pre-season fixture on the French/Swiss border.
Although the region fielded a team made up predominantly of youngsters, with seven of the starting XV making their first senior appearance in an Ospreys shirt, Januarie had the opportunity to catch up some of his old team-mates pre and post-match, the popular South African taking time to chat with a number of the Ospreys travelling party.
During the game, Januarie was an influential figure as an almost full strength Lyon secured a comfortable victory despite a big effort from the young Ospreys.
Speaking post-match he said:
“There weren’t many players who I played with on the trip but the likes of Duncan, Cai, Ianto and Sonny were here and it was good to catch up, as well as speaking to the coaches. I have some great memories of my time at the Ospreys and it was nice to see old friends again.
“I had a really good time at the Ospreys and I hope that they have another successful season. I was only with the Ospreys for a short time but I grew very close to the players and fans in that time, everybody made my family very welcome and we will always support the team.”
Having gone head-to-head with a youthful Ospreys team, Januarie says that he saw plenty to be encouraged by in the performance despite the defeat:
“There were a lot of young players in the team and not a lot of experience so it was always going to be a difficult game for them no matter how Lyon played. You can see from the outside that these players have ability but it is a big step up to come and play as a team against a side that has more experience and is closer to the start of the season.
“It was the first game together for this Ospreys team so obviously it’s going to be tough. I know there is expectation on any Ospreys team in any game, it’s what comes with being a player at a club of that size, but players have to learn to handle that expectation.
“You could see at times what potential these players have and it will come together for them if they played together regularly. They showed good commitment and stuck to the job and in the second half they really pushed us and put us under a lot of pressure.
“They will all be better players for this experience. Every player and every team has to start somewhere and there were players in the Ospreys team who were at the very start of their career. I’m sure that off the back of this experience they will be able to kick-on and make a good career for themselves at the Ospreys.”
Unlike the Ospreys, Lyon’s preparations for the new season – which gets underway at the end of August with a trip to face Clermont Auvergne – is unhindered by World Cup call-ups. Despite the absence of a sizeable international contingent, Januarie believes that the talent still available to the coaches means that the Ospreys will get the new season off to a good start.
“It will be difficult to deal with missing so many players for the start of the season, a problem that we don’t have so much at Lyon” he said.
“But I wouldn’t worry about it if I was an Ospreys fan, they have a good squad with plenty of good players who will still be around and they can do really well this season.
“Not including the internationals I think there are something like 10 or more players to come into the team who weren’t here for this game, and they are good players. I’d be pretty excited about the new season with these boys if I was an Osprey fan, and although the team playing in the Lyon match was a very inexperienced one you could see the potential among them. These boys will have a good future with the Ospreys if they work hard at their game.”
As for Januarie himself, Friday’s game was his first following the move to Lyon, a game he marked with a trademark Januarie try, sniping in from close range, and he was happy to be back in action after the summer lay-off:
“It was good, it was my first game in seven weeks so I’m blowing a bit but it’s good to be playing again. We had a game against Toulon last weekend but I watched that one. As a team we are heading in the right direction with a week to go until our first game of the season against Clermont.
“It may only be a pre-season game but it’s always pretty good to score a first try for a new club. I didn’t have to carry the ball too far for this one! I enjoyed the try and I enjoyed the game, it’s a great place to play rugby.”