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Why 'big men in their packs' are hurting South African URC teams

(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Glasgow assistant coach Nigel Carolan is adamant the four South African sides will soon start making their presence felt after struggling for results in their first two weekends in the URC. There was much hype in pre-season about the addition of Stormers, Sharks, Lions and Bulls to the United Rugby Championship this term, but so far the South African contingent have found it tough.


Between them, they have won only one game – when Lions won away to Italian strugglers Zebre on the opening night. Glasgow defeated Sharks last Saturday in their first URC showdown with a South African side and they face another this weekend when they host Lions.

Carolan expects them to improve once they overcome their early teething problems. He said: “At the moment, they are finding their feet. They are having to do all the adaptation to life and rugby in the northern hemisphere. It’s different to what they are used to.

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“The ball-in-play time is new for them. They are very set-piece orientated. They have got big men in their packs so they are having to get used to teams keeping the ball in play and moving them around for longer periods of time.

“A lot of the tries they are leaking are after multiple phases. Will they get better? Yes, they will. Will they be tougher at home? Yes, they will. It will be up to us to adapt to their ways once we get on the road. They are all missing some players from the national team as well so they will get stronger when we meet them again.”

The South Africans are currently playing all their URC matches in Europe, with their home games to come later in the campaign. Carolan feels the lack of home support is also a factor in their results, with twelve of the opening 16 URC matches going the way of the host team. He continued: “It won’t be helping them that they are having to play away all the time. It’s fantastic to have supporters back in the stadiums.


“We had 7,000 of our supporters here on Saturday and even when things are not going well, it’s great to have a crowd behind you. Last year without the supporters, it was definitely a level playing field but you can see with the results so far that it is all the home teams who are getting the results this season and that is very much down to having supporters egging you on. It’s been massive.”

Carolan is hoping his side can build on the positive aspects of their 35-24 win over Sharks when they welcome Lions to Scotstoun. He said: “It was the good, the bad and the ugly on Saturday. For 50 minutes, it was great in many aspects. We were solid, scoring tries from turnovers, from set-pieces, from battering down the doors. There was a lot of variety, pace and unpredictability to our game.

“The biggest challenge was struggling to focus when things went a bit sour after our scrum-try was disallowed. We spoke on Monday about how we can stop the rot and get back on track when things are not going our way. We want to do for the whole 80 minutes what we did in those first 50 minutes.”



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