James Hart ready to test the lungs in Bloemfontein

Scrum-half James Hart believes Munster’s two-match tour to South Africa is the perfect way to build up for the Champions Cup showdown with his former club Racing 92 on Sunday week.

The 26-year-old made 19 appearances for Racing last season before joining Munster on a two-year deal last summer.

He started in the 39-22 win over the Southern Kings in George on Saturday evening and is hoping to clock up more time when Munster face the Cheetahs tomorrow night in Bloemfontein.

“The Kings have struggled this year although the game was physical enough on Saturday but I think the Cheetahs have shown the quality side that they are.

“They have been tough to beat over here, only Glasgow have managed that so far.

“I have never played at altitude so I am looking forward to see how the lungs go. I know it will be tough but we are very well-conditioned side and our preparations out here have gone very well so hopefully there will be no issue for us.

“The weather out here will also help us prepare for Racing in Bordeaux. It was warm on Saturday night, the ball was a little bit slippy and it’s probably going to be like that in Bordeaux. The whole tour has been fantastic and to get two weeks together has been great for the squad.”

Hart made his Champions Cup debut for Munster off the bench in the dramatic win over Toulon and he said a key part of his decision to come back to Ireland was to participate in these big games.

“You come back to Ireland to be involved in big games. I had the chance last year with Racing to get to the semi-final stage of the Top 14 and this tour is a kind of reminder.

“We were doing camps in the south of France and then played the semi-final in Marseille. All those big games are so exciting to play in, there is that extra energy around.

“I haven’t played against Racing this year but I could be in the squad for the semi-final and it will be great to play against those lads. I’m friendly with them, I know them well and chat a lot to them.”

The squad are based in Cape Town this week before heading up to Bloenfontein today and Hart said the players have really enjoyed the experience in South Africa.

“This is my first time in South Africa. I always wanted to come. The scenery is amazing. I am a bit of a shark fanatic and we were hoping to go shark-diving but it wasn’t possible. But it’s a great tour and the guys are enjoying it.”

Irish ref for Munster semi-final 

Dubliner JP Doyle will referee Munster’s Champions Cup semi-final clash with Racing 92 in Bordeaux on Sunday, April 22. 

English Premiership ref Doyle also officiated the meeting of the sides at Thomond Park in October.

French official Romaine Poite will take charge of Leinster’s semi-final meeting with Scarlets at the Aviva the day before.

Ireland’s John Lacey will officiate the Cardiff-Pau Challenge Cup semi-final.


Lifestyle

Skincare expert Dr Catharine Denning explains why the dual cleansing approach is best.Why you should be double cleansing every night, according to a dermatologist

CORK is poised to open a new chapter on its heritage, past and present, this weekend. Nano Nagle Place, the unexpected oasis near the city centre, will unveil a combined bookshop, print gallery and map room.Cork opens a new chapter on its history and heritage this weekend

The ribbed fabric is having a fashion moment, says Katie Wright.Get on board with cord: 5 of the best pinafore dresses and how to style them

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman whose future mother-in-law isn’t happy with her decision not to have kids.Ask a counsellor: ‘Why can’t my fiancé’s mother accept that I don’t want children?’

More From The Irish Examiner