Glasgow co-captain Callum Gibbins believes the Warriors forward pack proved a point with a barnstorming first-half display against Munster and now want to kick on during their two-week South African sojourn.
The matches against Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday and Kings in Port Elizabeth a week later give Dave Rennie’s men an opportunity to continue their winning start to the campaign.
It was a season which started amidst a cloud of concern around the Glasgow forwards’ ability to match the top sides after a disappointing end to last term and a chastening pre-season loss at Northampton.
The Warriors took the game to Irish powerhouses Munster at Scotstoun last Friday with an impressively dominant first-half display. “We felt we provided a great platform for our backs. We’ve been working hard in that area,” said Gibbins. “I think we stood up. We needed to because Munster are a big side and a big force in this competition.”
Rennie suggested after Friday’s match that some of the criticism of the pack had been unfair, though Gibbins was willing to concede that there were issues which need to be addressed in the weeks and months ahead if Glasgow are to compete at the business end of the Pro14 and in Europe.
“Last year, we probably didn’t get it too right at times and we struggled a little bit,” said the Kiwi openside. “It starts up front with the forwards and things tend to work out from there.
“We tend not to think too much outside the group. Personally, I’m not too worried what people say about our forward pack. When you do the analysis of your own game you work out where you’ve gone wrong.
“We took it upon ourselves to work out what we could do better. As I said before, we set high standards for ourselves. We’re working out how to become better in different areas and maybe our setpiece is one of those.”
Coming from Super Rugby, Gibbins has more experience of playing in South Africa than most of the 29-man Warriors squad, and he was the two-try hero – his first for the club – in the 29-26 victory away to Conference A rivals Cheetahs last season.
“I played here last year with the Warriors. I never played Super Rugby in Bloemfontein but I played in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban,” said the former Hurricanes forward.
“It is tough but I don’t mind it too much. You get a week to train, you get good rest and the trainers have a protocol that sort of acclimatises you to the altitude.
“It’s nice to play in this sort of weather. I think it helps us to play an expansive game. I quite like playing at altitude.
“Two weeks away with 30 guys is quite good. You get days off when you can do a few activities and get away from rugby in a different area.
“When you’re at the hotel you’re spending a lot of time around each other so you get good clarity on how you want to play the game.
“You become tighter as a group. It’s a little bit different but I think it’s really good for a team to experience something like this over two weeks.
“We want to grow our game and take that through to the Cheetahs.”
The Warriors are based in Johannesburg before they move the 250 miles south to Bloemfontein for the game and Gibbins laughed off any suggestion that the tour downtime would involve any lion-stroking, after Ospreys and Wales hooker Scott Baldwin came a cropper and was bitten on a safari trip last season.
“I don’t know about that,” chuckled Gibbins. “We’ve got a social group to organise stuff like that. We’ll maybe go out for lunch together and check the place out.”