Backs Coach Gruff Rees says that Saturday's visitors to the Liberty Stadium will provide "a big challenge" to the Ospreys as they look to secure their first victory of the RaboDirect PRO12 season in front of their own fans.
Ulster arrive in Ospreylia off the back of an opening weekend win over Glasgow, and Rees says everyone at the region is well aware of the threat that last season’s Heineken Cup finalists will bring with them.
Speaking ahead of the weekend’s game, Rees said:
"I like Ulster. Over the last few years they have got lots of intricacies, and a good integration between backs and forwards with the way they play.?
"That's credit to Brian McLaughlin who was there previously, and in fairness to the new coach, they have still got that good foundation but he has also added a big physical edge to things. ?They are very confrontational as a side not just with the ball in hand but especially defensively.? They've become a fast team defensively, certainly much faster off the line than they were.? They are looking to impose themselves on teams and they have made a few signings to compliment that and they are in a pretty good place.? It's a big challenge.?”
The Ospreys will be backed by what it is hoped will be the first of many big crowds at the Liberty Stadium this campaign, with season memberships at an all-time high, and he denies that the added expectation after a summer of positivity will bring increased pressure.
"I wouldn't call it pressure but we know we have to step up to the mark” insisted Rees.
“Home games for us are very important and we want to perform well. We are under no illusions that we can't afford to rest on our laurels, we need to step up quickly.Home games at the Liberty are always good occasions for us. It should be a great crowd, which will be fantastic with all the season-ticket sales. We want to put on a show for the supporters. We had some fantastic backing at the end of last term. We realise we have to perform better and show a little more coolness in terms of what we are doing against a damn good Ulster side.”
After opening day defeat in Treviso Rees remained upbeat, but he underlined the need for improvement this weekend:
“One or two went astray, perhaps because of technical issues, but we’re creating chances. Some of our movement off the ball was pretty good and people were getting in good positions; it’s just our decision-making and our finishing let us down. It’s back to that clinical, cold mindset that we didn’t have. We were too caught up in moments and things were too loose because of it, meaning we lacked that edge to finish off in the way we have in the past. We’ve created as many chances in the past and won games, but this one slipped away from us.
“Let’s not get away from the fact that we lost a game, and as a group we are competitive and want to win, so to lose was disappointing. But we showed good character and aspects of our control after the first 30 minutes were good in terms of using the ball more effectively, kicking more effectively and putting Treviso under pressure. We constructed some good moments going forward, with people working off the ball, and we put people into space on occasions. We could and should have finished those chances, which would have put a different slant on the game. It was also pleasing that we grew up as a team after being immature to start the game. We know we have to be a bit more ruthless going forward.”