Calvin Nash in training with Munster (file pic). Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Nash and Munster ready to bounce back after 'easily one of the toughest games I’ve played'

The southern province are in South Africa for URC action.

AFTER A TOUGH introduction to playing rugby at altitude in Pretoria last weekend, Calvin Nash anticipates that Munster will be much better equipped to tackle the challenge of Emirates Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Despite being seven places above them in the table, the Irish province trailed Vodacom Bulls by 23 points at the midway stage of their United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld Stadium four days ago. The Blues subsequently increased their lead on the resumption, before Munster fired back with tries courtesy of Alex Kendellen, Damian de Allende and Jack O’Donoghue to claim a losing bonus point from an eventual 29-24 defeat.

Having come through that game – and displayed incremental improvements as the action progressed – Johann van Graan’s side will also have the benefit of additional collective training sessions before they take on the Lions.

“It should stand to us this week, having a week’s training and that game. Because that game was easily one of the toughest games that I’ve played,” the Munster winger said from a remote press conference in South Africa.

“I found it very difficult in the last few minutes to find the energy to keep going. Today [Tuesday] we had our training and I felt very good this morning. I felt very good yesterday. Hopefully it will be a lot easier this weekend.”

Still, while accepting that the harsh conditions in Pretoria were undoubtedly a factor, Nash (whose brother Brandon was on the Crescent College Comprehensive side that secured the Munster Schools Senior Cup at Thomond Park yesterday) doesn’t believe this entirely explains their lacklustre showing in the opening 40 minutes against the Bulls.

“We were very disappointed with our first half. I think the Bulls almost caught us by surprise. They were very dominant. We didn’t front up as well as we wanted to and how we had planned. The heat and the altitude obviously was a bit of a shock. You can’t really train for how a game is going to be. We were disappointed with the first half, very disappointed.

“They came out of the blocks firing straight away and I just don’t think we were on task straight away. That’s kind of what let us down. When you give a team momentum like that in the first half when they’re at home, the crowd gets on your back. It’s very easy to keep the momentum going when you’re at home and I think that’s what went against us in the first half.”

Even though Bulls replacement hooker Bismarck Du Plessis was red-carded with 10 minutes remaining, the visitors had already created sustained momentum prior to his dismissal. With pride very much at stake, Nash felt the second half was much closer to what Munster aspires to be.

“I think it was just that we became more dominant. The coaches’ messages were fairly clear and we were all pretty much in sync and we just needed to put in a massive shift. Munster as a club has great pride in the performances that it makes and that first half wasn’t a Munster performance.

“We really needed to dig deep and do something in the second half to make the fans proud and makes ourselves proud as well. Try to win the game.”

Despite losing four of the 12 encounters that they’ve played to date in the URC, Munster remain in a relatively healthy third position – nine points off pace-setters Leinster with a game in hand.

The Lions are currently 11 places and 24 points further back in the league standings, but showed in last Sunday’s 37-20 bonus point win against Cardiff that they are capable of producing big performances on home soil. Ivan van Rooyen’s outfit also posed a number of problems for Leinster before eventually losing out 21-13 at the RDS on February 25 and Nash stressed how important it will be to close down the space that their opponents will want to operate in.

“You saw all the South African sides at the weekend, all their home games they won. Watching the Lions, they’ve very good athletes across their back-row, across their back-three. They’re very dangerous. We don’t really want it to get too loose and give them that loose game that they’ll just run riot,” the Limerick native added.

Ireland internationals Devin Toner and Lindsay Peat were our guests for The Front Row’s special live event, in partnership with Guinness, this week. The panel chats through Ireland’s championship chances ahead of the final round of Guinness Six Nations matches, and members of the Emerald Warriors – Ireland’s first LGBT+ inclusive rugby team – also join us to talk about breaking down barriers in rugby. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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