Steve Tandy declared himself a "really proud coach" after an Ospreys team missing 26 players through injury, international call-ups and suspensions, moved back into the top four on Friday night with their 11th win in the last 13 PRO12 games.
The Ospreys missed out on a try bonus, only touching down three times in the Liberty Stadium victory over Edinburgh, but Tandy insisted it’s difficult to be harsh on a team that featured so many youngsters and players out of position, with another two PRO12 debutants coming off the bench in the form of Arthur Ellis and Dan Baker, who received a late call-up after George Stowers dropped out.
“We can always chase rainbows and look for five points but I think when you reflect on it, it’s difficult to be harsh on this group” said Tandy.
“I can’t think of many other teams at this moment in time that are missing 26 players and winning games. There are countless players on international duty, countless players injured, we had George pulling out today, and yet we still managed to win another game.
“We got the win out in Ulster and since the Alun Wyn’s gone to Wales, we’ve had two players cited, Goughy’s injured, Ben John got injured last week, Duncan pulled up in the week, yet the players don’t look to make excuses.
“They’re all disappointed that we haven’t got a bonus point but it’s really difficult as a coach to be disappointed with this group because when you really do look in depth at it they are doing something pretty special to still be in the hunt after losing 26 guys.
“I was asked before the game why was Kahn playing on the wing, we literally don’t have anything else and we’ve got to try things. Habbers is a young kid who hadn’t played for us at nine outside of the LV yet he went out on the wing against Leicester and did a terrific job.
“We are patched up. It’s something I’m really proud of. I know you’ll look at it that we’ve maybe lost a point here. As a coach I know that there are several times that we’ve scored three tries this season, but on reflection you look at this group and you have to take your hat off to them. It’s a special group to be honest.”
Tandy paid tribute to the work ethic, never say die attitude and commitment of his troops, adding:
“We’re asking a lot of these young men, who rarely fail to put in a performance. Taking a look around the dressing room in Connacht last week there were a lot of disappointed faces. Have they got a right to feel disappointed, probably not. They are a young team, backing each other and playing for the cause. The squad is so thin but they won’t give up. There have been some special performances from this group when you take into account international call-ups and injuries. I’m a really proud coach.
“I know you can look back and be really harsh and say that we’ve not picked up many bonus points, that we didn’t get a losing bonus point up in Edinburgh or against Connacht, but this group in fairness, there’s not a lot more we could ask from them. It is a work in progress and yes we’d like to add a little bit of experience to it but at this moment, with budget restraints we can’t do that.
“While I’m an Ospreys coach and we’ve got that group though we’ll always be competitive and leave nothing out on that field. We pride ourselves on making the best of what we’ve got. From what this group lack in experience they give everything, they chase hard, they tackle, they know their roles. There is a lack of depth and a lack of experience but we’ll keep competing, giving everything we’ve got on the training field and on the pitch.
“We don’t look for excuses, wherever we are playing. Getting the result tonight is huge for us. It’s a late kick-off, it’s freezing cold and we’re missing so many players but the support tonight was excellent, they really got behind the cause, and the guys on the pitch responded to that.”
The Ospreys now head to Munster next weekend and a difficult evening in Thomond Park against the European quarter-finalists and Tandy promised supporters that the players will once again give everything to the cause in Limerick:
“We’ve got to focus on Munster now. We’ve just told the group that we do want them to be a bit more clinical, they’ve got to set their own standards. Even though we’ve got people playing out of position, we’ve got people patched up, we’ve got young men making their debuts or with just one, two or three appearances behind them, we’ve got to go to Munster and pick up something and then hopefully we can kick on for the last five games.
“We fancy our chances against anyone, if we get to the top four at the end of the season we’ll believe we can win this tournament. It’s tough at the moment, with Glasgow’s win tonight there are probably four of us going after two places so we’ll probably have to go away and win it on the road. We don’t want to give up our title and we’ll keep fighting to the bitter end, irrelevant of citings, injuries or international call-ups, we want to defend as best we can.”