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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Christiaan Kotze/INPHO Connacht's Mack Hansen.
# Grind
'You can never doubt the fight and energy that we have within the group'
Connacht head coach Andy Friend insists his players will only get better after rare victory away in South Africa.

THE ATTITUDE OF the players was one of the most pleasing aspects for Connacht head coach Andy Friend following yesterday’s hard-fought 33-30 win over the Lions in Johannesburg in the United Rugby Championship.

They held off a late surge by the Lions to claim the victory, and this despite the altitude starting to take a toll on the visitors.

Earlier in the week, Friend challenged his charges to retain their unbeaten record against South African teams after previously beating both the Stormers and Bulls in Ireland.

Following the win on the Highland, Friend lauded the attitude of his players to record a rare victory in South Africa.

“Credit to the attitude of the boys”, said the 53-year-old Australian coach.

“We have a lot of performances that haven’t resulted in wins and lots of performances where we were disappointed. You’ll never doubt the fight and energy within the group. We are only the second team to come to South Africa this year and get a win away from home.

“That is a credit to the boys and the performance they put out there.”

andy-friend Christiaan Kotze / INPHO Connacht head coach Andy Friend. Christiaan Kotze / INPHO / INPHO

Friend added that going forward he is sure that his team will just get better as they fine tune the coachable aspects of their game.

“If you go back and watch the teams that played here, they often start pretty well and fade with 20-25 minutes to go, and that’s where the Lions come back at you.

We talked about it all week, around just having to be tough, staying in the fight and having to just keep working.

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“As I said to the boys in the shed afterwards, we can’t coach that. That is attitude and that is something we have in abundance, which is brilliant.

“We just need to fine tune some of the other areas that we can control, such as some of the looseness of what we are doing. When we do that, and I know that we will, we’re going to become a very difficult team to beat.”

Connacht will now head down to Durban where they will be up against the Sharks at Kings’ Park. Generally, April is the best month of the year in which to play rugby there. However, the heavy rain in recent times has certainly changed the dynamics.

They will also have to contend with the confidence of the Sharks, which has been further boosted by the 28-23 win over Leinster yesterday evening.

The narrative does remain the same for Connacht, and that is to beat all four of the South African teams in the URC.

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