JOSH Strauss believes that the 4G artificial surface at the BT Sport Arms Park will hand Cardiff a significant advantage when Glasgow head for the Welsh capital on Sunday.
The Blues proved obdurate opposition for Warriors last term, with Gregor Townsend’s side’s two victories in the Pro12 book-ending successive defeats in the Heineken Cup that terminated Glasgow’s interest in that competition at the pool stages for another campaign.
While Warriors do train on the 3G synthetic surface of the back pitches at Scotstoun, the powerful South African back row, who has taken over the captaincy during Al Kellock’s lengthy injury rehabilitation, is adamant that there is a material difference between the two grass alternatives.
All of which has led the 27-year-old to admit that Glasgow are expecting an acid test of their ability to build on last weekend’s opening dispatch of champions Leinster.
“There is a big difference between the 4G pitch and grass. We found last season that the bounce of the ball was very different and seemed to have a lot more spring to it and the whole tempo of the game just seemed to play that bit quicker,” said Strauss.
He continued: “Obviously the faster pace, particularly in poor weather, is down to the improved footing you get on 4G, but when you are not playing or training on it every week then the home team, who have the 4G definitely all the time, have a big advantage.
“Okay we have a 3G pitch at Scotstoun that we use to train on but I would say the 4G is deeper and softer than that one and there is an obvious difference.
“You also have to take into account your footwear and the type of studs you use, although I stuck with screw-in studs last season and they were good.
“But when any team is playing on home-field then they have an advantage and I guess when it is an artificial surface that is a bigger advantage.”
The six foot four Strauss, whose barnstorming 30-metre try in the 22-20 defeat of Leinster capped a fine all-round performance in Glasgow’s maiden Guinness Pro12 outing, is looking forward to his impending collision with Wales and British Lions’ skipper Sam Warburton.
“When I was still in South Africa and playing for the Golden Lions there were certain players from the Northern Hemisphere who we knew about and Sam Warburton was one of them,” admitted Strauss.
He continued: “Obviously he led Wales to a Rugby World Cup semi-final and captained them to a Grand Slam and then went on to skipper the British Lions’ successful tour of Australia, so he has an awful lot of big stuff on his resumé.
“The only game Sam played in the four we had with Cardiff last season was the last one in the Pro12, which we won 27-20, and he brings a lot to the table. But to be fair, Cardiff are very physical and very strong at the breakdown and in the Heineken Cup games they got the better of us in that area. But there is no doubt that with Sam in their side and the leadership he gives Cardiff we will have to be at our best on Sunday.”
Glasgow’s blitzkrieg start against Leinster saw them touch down three times in a first-half performance that left the champions in their wake last time out, and Strauss says another high-octane opening session will be vital to his side once again at the BT Sport Arms Park.
“When you go away from home then you have to lift everything a level, and for me that really means the physicality of our performance in the first quarter must be right up there with the Leinster game,” said the Glasgow skipper.
Strauss added: “Obviously we suffered mixed results against Cardiff last term when we won both the league games and lost the two Heineken Cup fixtures. For me the biggest factor in these losses was that we got beaten up in the physical battles and were, as a result, second best at the breakdown.
“But our form on the road in the Pro12 was excellent last season and I think the run of seven games we won away from home, including the league game at the Arms Park, was a new record.
“We are very proud of that run and we want to try and do everything we can to emulate it and even beat it this time around. So Sunday’s game is massively important to us.”