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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
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'These are moments you can never get back': Muldoon determined to make final matches count
While the rest of the Pro14 schedule has been snowed under, Connacht will face a formidable task at altitude in Bloemfontein.

Morgan Piek reports from Grey College, Bloemfontein

KIERAN KEANE PUT his Super Rugby experience to work as Connacht bucked a European trend ahead of their Pro14 clash with the Cheetahs this afternoon (kick-off 17.35 Sky Sports).

Connacht arrived in Bloemfontein on Monday afternoon, a change of tack as most Pro14 visitors have opted to spend the week at the coast and then catch a flight to the Free State just before the game.

A former attack coach with the Chiefs, Keane has afforded his team the time to acclimatise to the altitude, something that has bitten every team apart from the Glasgow Warriors in the Cheetahs’ maiden season in European competition.

From a player’s perspective, they have enjoyed themselves, although the heat and sun has caused quite a few necks to hastily seek shelter to avoid the glare during Thursday’s training session at the rugby factory, Grey College.

Captain John Muldoon, admits that the lure of a trip to South Africa played a part in his decision to play on for one more year before hanging up the boots at the end of this season.

John Muldoon Grey College resized (1) Morgan Piek Morgan Piek

“Last season was one of those in-between seasons, was I going to play on, or was I going to retire,” said the stalwart of Connacht rugby.

“Then we got a new coach in the chance to go to South Africa was actually a deciding factor in staying on.

These are moments that you can never get back. While you can come back as a coach or a spectator, you’ll never come back and experience it in the playing sense.

“A long time doing it, it’s very hard to just give it up. It’s that locker-room mentally and just hanging out with your friends is very difficult (to give up) and everything must come to an end at some stage, but I’ve had a good old innings of it.”

While enjoying one of his last outings for Connacht is important, Muldoon, realises that they are in South Africa on a business trip. Connacht begin the weekend fifth and 11 points off third-place Cheetahs but have to consider the play-offs a possibility.

“It’s a big when you look at the play-offs and the table. Unfortunately we made it a little more difficult for ourselves a couple of weeks ago against Zebre. We got back on track in Treviso last week, but this week it’s another big game for us before a small break.

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“It’s not going to be easy at home against the Cheetahs. They’ve only lost to the Glasgow Warriors who are flying high in the league as well.

“We are going to have to get some sort of result here if we want to have a look at the play-offs. Play-offs aren’t easy, we’ve been there before. It tells the story of a team’s consistency and that is something that we have lacked this season.”

Cheetahs

15 Clayton Blommetjies
14 Craig Barry
13 Francois Venter ( captain)
12 Nico Lee
11 Luther Obi
10 Niel Marais
9 Zee Mkhabela

1 Ox Nche
2 Torsten van Jaarsveld
3 Johan Coetzee
4 Justin Basson
5 Reniel Hugo
6 Paul Schoeman
7 Henco Venter
8 Uzair Cassiem

Replacements

16 Jacques du Toit
17 Charles Marais
18 Tom Botha
19 Renier Bernardo
20 Oupa Mohoje
21 Tian Meyer
22 Fred Zeilinga
23 Sibhale Maxano

Connacht

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Cian Kelleher
13. Eoin Griffin
12. Pita Ahki
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Caolin Blade

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. James Cannon
6. Sean O’Brien
7. Jarrad Butler
8 John Muldoon (captain)

Replacements

16. Shane Delahunt
17. Denis Coulson
18. Dominic Robertson McCoy
19. Gavin Thornbury
20. Eoghan Masterson
21. James Mitchell
22. Craig Ronaldson
23. Niyi Adeolokun

‘As your stereotypical ginger Irish man, walking out into 30 degree heat is dangerous stuff’

Dillane starts for Connacht against Cheetahs in Bloemfontein

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