Champions and frontrunners Glasgow may have secured their spot in the Guinness Pro12 play-offs but Josh Strauss says the prize of a home semi-final means they go into Saturday’s match at second-placed Connacht treating it as a knockout game.
If the Warriors avoid defeat in Galway on Saturday they will get the Scotstoun play-off they dearly want, while a victory would mean a second successive first-place finish in the regular season.
Last year home advantage proved crucial in seeing Ulster off in a close semi-final clash and the Scotland back-rower is determined to keep the winning momentum going.
“We have to focus on winning so it is pretty much a knockout game,” said Strauss. “Finish the season on a high and it’s a great morale and confidence boost when you do finish in top spot.
“That’s what we’re aiming for, you want to win every game you play in.”
The Warriors have surged from a precarious position in the bottom half of the table to the top of the pile with an electric run of nine straight wins, culminating in last weekend’s record 70-10 rout of Zebre.
“Ten in a row would be great as well,” continued Strauss. “We started slowly this season as a club and I think it’s been a great squad effort. We have a big squad and it’s shown a lot of character all around, for everyone to have played a part in this and for us to put it together, hopefully make it ten in a row. Though I suppose it’s 12 in a row [including the semi-final and final] we’re aiming for exactly.
“Mid-season we managed to turn it around a bit, but that also came down to it being a different sort of year with the World Cup and everything. It’s been a great squad effort as I’ve said and it makes the coaches’ job a bit tougher for selection.”
Strauss admitted being down in ninth place earlier in the year was not ideal but insisted there was always confidence that, as the international players settled back in after the Six Nations, they could get on a roll.
“When things aren’t going as planned there’s always talk and you have a chat about it, but it wasn’t panic stations or anything like that,” said the 29-year-old. “We had a chat about it but that’s been a good thing in my time here, we sit down as a team, we have different groups including a leaders’ group and we talk about it and work it out like grown men.”
After his hat-trick heroics against Zebre last Friday, lock Leone Nakarawa revealed that the squad met following the 13-10 loss at Ulster in early February and vowed there would be no more defeats until the end of the season. So far, so good, and Strauss said: “That [meeting] played a part in the turning point alright.
“It’s been a real concerted effort and everyone worked hard and bought into it.”
Strauss was rested for the home game against Zebre last week and is raring to go on Saturday if selected when coach Gregor Townsend names his team tomorrow.
“I feel good, yes, it’s been a bit stop-go for me this season what with injury and coming back from the World Cup, but I’m feeling good now,” he said. “We’re getting managed well. It’s just a question of getting my head around the game now.”