by DOUGLAS ROSS
AFTER taking three years to become eligible for Scotland, you would think that Josh Strauss would be a lot more anxious about the plethora of exciting young backrows emerging at the moment in his adopted homeland.
It is, in fact, quite the opposite. The 30-year-old South African born forward is the very definition of tranquillity when discussing the competition for his position.
“I think some players fall into the trap of getting too disappointed when someone else steps in, but I was lucky enough to be involved with the squad even though I was injured and I get along great with guys like Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury – they are great young players. I am extremely happy for them and I think it is great for Scottish rugby,” he said.
Bradbury, a tall and aggressive ball carrier in a similar mould to Strauss, impressed on his debut against Argentina two weekends ago.
Strauss is keeping level headed, though. He knows that all he can do is work hard and help push Glasgow back into form and the rest will come if it is meant to.
“I’m getting on in age. I’m turning 31 this year so I’ll keep pushing and giving my best, and I back myself, but it is great for Scottish rugby having depth,” he mused.
“I think it will be difficult to get back in [to the Scotland team]. Getting to know Vern, it is not about who you are or how much you’ve played. He goes strictly on performance and what he feels you’ve done in the game. He has a clear picture of what he wants from you and he tells you, and you do your best to fit into that,” said Strauss.
This Friday sees Glasgow Warriors attempt to bounce back from consecutive defeats in the Guinness Pro12 during the Autumn International madness.
Accumulating only eight points in two outings has not sat well with either those who left for Scotland duty or those who were present for the losses.
Strauss falls under both of those categories. He missed the Scarlets game three weeks ago because he was training with the national team, but then injured his calf and missed out on the Test series. After returning to fitness he was named as captain for the Warriors for the humbling by Ospreys last Friday night.
“Last Friday was similar to the game before against the Scarlets – we just didn’t get much going in those games. There was plenty heart in our defence but our attack was poor,” said Strauss.
There will have to be a serious improvement this Friday if the Warriors are to get back to winning ways when hosting a top of the table Munster side.
“A big focus for me and the team has been about role clarity, encouraging players to ask their questions before training, and before games, and not leave it until after they’ve made a mistake to seek clarity,” added Strauss.
“So that’s been a big driving force this week, ensuring everyone understands the importance of doing the work and understanding what they’re doing in training because that’s what we mean by good preparation.”
Glasgow could be seen as a victim of their own success. Having so many top Scotland players in their ranks, they are always going to suffer when international duty comes around.
“In the past, even some of the guys who were integrated to Scotland were rotation players at the Warriors with the type of players we had at the club, whereas now they are steadfast first team players who are getting taken away by Scotland,” said Strauss.
“I think that is a big difference. Players like Tommy Seymour, the amount they have grown into what they are today, they are world class players, so to lose them is a big knock to the club. We try to get the balance right but there is always a bit of a difference when the guys aren’t there.”
It isn’t just the loss of Scotland internationals that hurt the Warriors in recent outings with new boys Langilangi Haupeakui and Brian Alainu’uese both getting red cards in two separate games.
This begs the question, is there a discipline problem?
“You’ve got to take every incident for what it is. We do analyse it in that sense, and we do this thing where we have fun fines for stupid penalties. So, we see how we feel about it first and we take it from there,” answered Strauss.
“I wouldn’t say it is a big concern. It is more our attacking play in the last two games hasn’t been up to where we want it to be, so our focus is more on that.”
It is, without doubt, a huge weekend for the Warriors. They are currently fifth in the table, seven points behind their opponents, who sit top. Another loss could see them become detached in the race for a play-off spot, while a win would put them right back in the mix.