Steve Tandy has told his players that they need to hit the ground running this weekend as the play-off race enters the final furlong, with Zebre providing the opposition at the Liberty on Saturday.
There are just five games still to go and, although the Ospreys moved back into the top four with a convincing win over play-off rivals Munster last time out, Head Coach Tandy knows there’s very little margin for error in the closing weeks of the season as the team look to lockdown a place in the end of season plays-offs for a fourth time since they were introduced in 2010.
After Saturday night’s game against Zebre (7.15pm KO), the Ospreys then travel to face Benetton Treviso before the Judgement Day clash with Cardiff Blues at the Millennium Stadium. High flying Glasgow come to Ospreylia at the start of May before the campaign rounds off with a difficult trip to play Conacht in Galway.
There’s everything to play for, and Tandy said that it’s important the team don’t let the good work done to date go to waste.
“There’s a great attitude in the group” he said.
“You know that they will give absolutely everything for the cause and that outlook is going to be essential if we are going to finish in the top four.
“It’s been a phenomenal effort to get us to this point of the season, top four and just six points off first place. The challenge for everybody now is to start again this weekend and make that last, final push, building on what we’ve achieved so far.”
Tandy welcomed the return of the Ospreys’ international contingent after their Six Nations efforts, but warned that nobody should expect to walk straight back into the starting XV:
“The work that the core group have done, not just the last couple of months but all season long, has been excellent. In particular, you review the preparation week going into the Munster game, and the way the team performed in such a crunch match, and as a coach you have to be pleased.
“Obviously, having quality, international calibre players coming back into our environment will provide everybody with a boost, but there are going to be some difficult selection decisions to be made this week. Boys have been given an opportunity and have put their hands up, and we are starting to have players returning from long-term injury, so there will be an interesting debate before we name the team.
“I’ve spoken to the players who have been with Wales and, without exception, they are really excited about coming back to Llandarcy and getting stuck in. That is fantastic and speaks volumes about the culture we have here that no matter what they’ve been through with Wales, they want to play, they want to wear the jersey and play their part in the push for the top four.
“We’ll have a look at them at the start of the week, assess where they are and that will all be part of the decision making process before Saturday night.
“With five games left, we know what we need to do. As has been the case all season, we will be focusing on preparation and performance. They key messages in training will be about attention to detail, knowing your role, and the need to be clinical. If, as a group, we get buy-in to that, then we are going to be in with a fighting chance of finishing in the top four. The Munster performance showed what we are capable of when all of that falls into place and now we’ve set that standard we have to maintain it.
“It’s exciting, anybody involved with the Ospreys should be looking forward to the next few weeks.”
Tickets for Saturday night’s game are available to buy now at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, via the Ticket Hotline on 0844 815 6665 and online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets