You have to feel a little sympathy for Scott Baldwin. The Ospreys winger has 34 international caps for Wales to his credit, he has made well over 100 appearances for his region but he will forever be remembered as the player who petted a lion and got what was coming.
Ali Price is supposedly talking about Glasgow’s match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein tomorrow evening but he can’t resist a quick dig at the Welshman dubbed “stupid” by his own coach.
“There were no lions!” says the Warriors scrum-half on the phone when asked about South Africa.
“The weather has been really good, there have been a couple of rain showers but, when we’ve been outside during the day, it has been mid to high 20s, pretty sunny, so its been a really good experience so far. Training has been good fun and I think everyone is looking forward to the game on Friday.”
It should be a fascinating fixture, more like Super Rugby than the real thing, with two teams who are renowned for throwing the ball about. A side like the Cheetahs always offer the opposition opportunities for points, they just bank on scoring more themselves, which is exactly what happened a few weeks back.
Zebre managed an impressive five tries in Bloemfontein only to concede seven themselves, and a similar high-scoring thriller can’t be ruled out tomorrow.
“They’ve obviously hit their straps recently with three good wins on the trot,” says Price.
“They are a big physical pack, love their set-piece, and they’ve got a lot of gas in the back three, so we see it as a brilliant challenge for us to keep going with how we’ve started the season.
“We’re looking forward to playing a nice, quick, open game which I think will suit both teams. It’s a massive challenge but one we are up to and looking forward to.”
Glasgow are the only unbeaten team in top-flight European rugby but only occasionally have they engaged top gear this season. They were gritty against Connacht, patchy against the Ospreys, fortunate to beat Cardiff, muscular against Munster and reverted to patchy for the visit of Italians Benetton last weekend.
The Cheetahs on home soil will prove a stern test. You fancy Dave Rennie’s team will need to find a little more accuracy while retaining that same intensity that saw off Munster and Price appears to agree. He said: “For us, it is bringing the intensity and accuracy.
The livewire scrum-half, whose pace will be an asset tomorrow evening, added: “Treviso was good in parts but we don’t feel our intensity was quite there or some of our accuracy. For us, it is trying to get the perfect balance. Munster was a good baseline for us in terms of what is expected now and we are looking to get better than that, push on in the intensity stakes, push on in the accuracy.
”I feel it will come. From weeks one and two to four and five, it is clear that everyone now knows their roles, knows how we are trying to play and what is expected of us. Every week, that is only going to improve.”
Unfortunately for Glasgow, their high-tempo style of rugby, so beloved of coach Rennie, will be tested not only by the Cheetahs but also by the altitude. The squad has acclimatised in Johannesburg all week and trained hard but no amount of running around in practice can replicate the lung-shredding intensity of a match played at 1400 metres.
Last weekend early in the second half the Ospreys were trailing by two points but the home side stretched their legs to score 19 points in the final half hour while the visitors managed just five.
“We did a session yesterday afternoon when we had more prolonged periods of play,” says Price when asked about altitude. “It is slightly different, you lose your breath a bit quicker but what we soon realised is that you recover quickly. I feel we are in a good spot. The training will help in the game.
”We have not mentioned it that much, we like to think we are a fit side and are not going to use that as an excuse. We have been training in Johannesburg, and apparently that is a higher altitude than Bloemfontein. We are coping with it all right here so I am sure that come the game we are not going to be thinking about it, we are just going to go out there and play.”
And have the players been able to enjoy any of the sights and sounds of the host nation, South Africa?
“A few people went to a croc farm yesterday,” replies Price, “but I don’t think there was any touching involved. All hands were kept behind fences!”