faraway fields
Connacht try to settle in heat and altitude while Ireland faces blizzard
‘We don’t have three weeks to acclimatise but we are confident.’

STORM EMMA, SNOW and ice couldn’t be further from the thoughts of the Connacht players and management this week as they battle 30-degree heat in South Africa.

And flanker Eoghan Masterson said that he is confident they can deal with the heat and demands of playing on the Highveld when they take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (kick-off 17.35, Sky Sports).

They go into their first match in South Africa on a high after ending Benetton Rugby’s winning run in Treviso at the weekend.


Masterson said that a lot of planning has gone into their trip to South Africa and he is confident they are ready to go.

“You hear a lot about how the ball travels a bit faster, it might be a bit tougher to get the air in when you are under pressure so it will be a massive challenge,” said the 24-year old.

“The Cheetahs have won every game at home, except Glasgow, so it will be a great challenge but we tend to rise up to challenges.

“Hopefully we can do that again against the Cheetahs. We pride ourselves on our fitness and I think we have shown throughout the season that we are a fit team throughout the 80 minutes.

“We are here on the Highveld for the week but we are told it takes about three weeks to acclimatise. Obviously we don’t have three weeks to acclimatise but we are confident we can rise to the challenge.”

Coach Kieran Keane is boosted by the availability of Irish lock Ultan Dillane for Saturday’s clash.

The initial plan was for Dillane to return to Irish camp after the 22-19 win in Treviso on Saturday but he travelled with the squad on their marathon trip to Bloemfontein via Dubai.

“We set off on Sunday morning and it was 24 hours travelling by the time we reached our hotel in Bloemfontein, between flight time and transfers and bus journeys. But the boys travelled well and being on tour like that has plenty of positives for a group.

“It’s tipping thirty degrees at times so it’s a new environment for most of these guys.

“We were delighted with the win in Treviso. It is a tough place to travel and plenty of teams have left there this season with no points,” said Keane.

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