There isn’t much that Peter O’Mahony hasn’t experienced at this stage of his career but spending two weeks abroad in a bubble with his Munster teammates ahead of a crunch European game is a new departure.
The Munster squad returned home yesterday via Dubai from what turned out to be a successful tour to South Africa, with Johann van Graan’s men holding off a late rally from the Cheetahs to win 19-17 in Bloemfontein on Friday night. That meant a haul of nine points from the tour, having the previous week defeated the Southern Kings 39-22, and Munster captain O’Mahony said it has been a successful trip.
“It was. We spoke at the start that it was our first time coming out to South Africa. It was important that we set our standards high throughout the last two weeks, there were eight guys in both weeks who weren’t playing. They trained hard. We got a great reception from the South African people but ultimately it was down to the two games. Nine out of ten points is something that I don’t think anyone else in the PRO14 can say they came away with. So, we are very happy with it.” The attention has already switched to Sunday afternoon and the Champions Cup showdown with Racing 92 in Bordeaux and O’Mahony admitted the trip to South Africa ensures this is a build-up to a key European game like none before.
“It’s strange. Speaking about it the other day among ourselves, unless you play with an international team you don’t really tour that much anymore.
“The amount of games in a season means that club teams just don’t tour anymore. You might get a week of a training week during the summer but other than that that’s about it. Certainly, touring is one of the best parts, if not the best part of rugby. Very enjoyable. You certainly earn your wins and we definitely earned our win against the Cheetahs.”
Van Graan and his management team will now assess who they have available for next Sunday with concerns about scrum-half James Hart after he went off after a heavy hit on Saturday evening, while Jack O’Donoghue and Dan Goggin also took knocks.
On the plus side, loosehead James Cronin should be available after recovering from a shoulder stinger early in the game against the Kings, while there is an outside chance that the rehab work done by Keith Earls back in Limerick could see him return from the knee ligament injury picked up late in the Grand Slam win over England.
O’Mahony said that the first thing they needed to do was recover from the journey back from South Africa, which involved a four-hour bus journey from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg and then flights to Dubai and Dublin.
“It’s a lot of travel so it’s very important that we try and manage our recovery as best we can. It’s difficult when you are travelling like that. But we will take our couple of days off. You have to take your momentum when it comes. We are on the back of a couple of wins now. It’s going to be a different animal next week. Semi-finals of Europe are a different animal.”
A heavy pitch at Toyota Stadium and the demands of playing in thin air on the Highveld will also have taken its toll on the players but O’Mahony said they were thrilled it was such a successful trip.
“The emotion, we knew how hard it is to come and get a win against the Cheetahs, you could see that from the reaction on the bench and on the pitch. It means a lot to us to come over here. It’s not easy and we spoke about it during the week, how hard it was going to be. Naturally when you get a win that’s difficult to get you are going to be happy with yourselves. It was very good,” he added.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved