URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: Warriors ready to celebrate in style

Head coach ready to enjoy a dram of whisky and cigar with his team – before rolling up the sleeves again

Glasgow Warriors lift the trophy as URC Champions. Image: ©INPHO/Ben Brady
Glasgow Warriors lift the trophy as URC Champions. Image: ©INPHO/Ben Brady

BACK in the early days of Franco Smith’s tenure as head coach of Glasgow Warriors, the usually straight-laced South African provided his players with a hint that his rugby horizons do stretch beyond the high fitness levels, unrelenting intensity and shrewd game awareness which have become recent hallmarks of his team’s march to URC glory.

“One morning at 7am I rolled out whisky for everybody to give them a wee taste of what it would be like to have a dram of whisky on the back of a win,” Smith explained during the press conference which followed his team’s heroic Grand Final success over Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld earlier this evening.

“I said: ‘Savour that, keep it in your mind, and one day as soon as we can win something we will have an evening when we can have a dram of whisky and a cigar’ … and tonight I think these guys merit that.”


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“We won the pinnacle tonight and I’m very proud,” he added. “Unfortunately, or fortunately, some boys are heading back to go into Scotland camp on Monday night, but they worked so hard they deserve every minute to celebrate. If you play hard then you can party hard.”

Skipper Kyle Steyn is one of those individuals who will be checking in on Scotland duty in about 48 hours time, but he didn’t look like a guy ready for a quiet night.

Asked about the ski goggles he wore during the press conference, the 30-year-old who grew up in nearby Johannesburg, and whose father, Rory, was once a protection officer for Nelson Mandela, explained: “My dad and my brother are doing the security for us and the thing I‘ve discovered in rugby celebrations is that you need goggles to protect yourself from all the champagne spray, so my brother packed a couple of pairs and when we came off the pitch tonight they were ready and waiting. So, myself and Sione Tuipulotu and a couple of boys have got them on.”

When the celebrations are over, and the hangover wears off, focus will quickly return to on-field matters, and Steyn stressed that as joyous as this moment is, it is only a step in the journey he believes this team is on.

“I think it can be huge. Looking at it from a Glasgow perspective, Franco talks about that hard edge and I think we have been searching for that as a group, particularly over the last 12 months,” he said. “There is just something about it … you can’t really get it until you’ve done it. And think the belief that particularly our forwards have shown up front to give us that hard edge over the last weeks will give us a lot of belief going forward.

“The way the first 40 went, I think we would have taken 13-7 at half-time,” he added. “I’m really proud of the forwards, especially, and the defensive effort they put in up front. Credit to the Bulls, the fired a lot of shots at us in the first 40 and towards the end. But our forwards’ physicality and the way they kept us in the game was unreal.”

Smith supported the notion that this was a moment to be celebrated but not an end in itself.  “I think this is definitely where we expected to be but tonight was an important ingredient,” he said. “To come here and play a South African team on their home soil in front of 50,000 supporters and still win in the way we did is a special accolade.

“We’ve come leaps and bounds and the sensation of what we’ve achieved tonight will be an important ingredient going forward.

“They [the players] have reacted really well. They’ve used disappointment in our favour, we’ve learned lessons but we also have a saying that ‘you don’t have to lose to learn’ and they’ve embraced that mentality. They are pushing their limits and their boundaries and their perimeters of what is expected from this team.

“I am really proud of the way they went around their business tonight and how they have bought into the plan. And I honestly think this is just the start and they can keep on progressing.”

 

 

As well deserved as the victory was, the game hung in the balance until the final seconds, but Smith insisted that he was confident of his players being able to close out the match in the face of a ferocious late Bulls onslaught deep inside Warriors’ 22

 “Just look from a rugby perspective, we hardly gave away a maul try this whole season and I knew the Bulls were not going to play out of that even though we had a yellow card,” he insisted. “We had some good defensive sets before that so I just felt if we stayed patient and not get penalised, a turnover will happen.

“I can honestly say, this is not to sound arrogant, that the nerves were under control. I had belief in the boys. We’ve been talking about a process the whole year so I backed the process and the boys backed it, and that brought the success.”

“We want to be the best version of ourselves. That is what we strive for. We don’t play the opposition, we play against ourselves. If you look yourselves in the mirror you must be honest and understand you have given it all once you retire.

“Until they retire they must keep working and that will be our challenge now – how often can we repeat a performance like tonight.”


URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: heroic Warriors snatch glory

About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

8 Comments

  1. FOR GET IT GUYS.BEST PERFORMANCE SINCE 1999 NO BEST SINCE 1990 NO BEST SINCE THE LIBON LIONS NO
    BEST SINCE BANNOCKBURN
    WAY TO GO AND CONGRATS TO kYLE AND fRANCO FOR AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE

  2. Doesn’t it justify a city bus tour or a celebration at the weekend? Would love to be there but no way I can attend on a Tuesday night….

  3. Showed character, determination, guts to come back from being behind, grit, all the superlatives that are deserving of the moment. Edinburgh and the national team could learn a lot from this TEAM where the team is greater than the sum of the parts. A lot of European Ryder Cup mentality here. Edinburgh and Scotland need a Smith, a Telfer, a Baxter.

  4. Such a historic and epic result. All the way to SA with little or no lead in, 50k home fans and at altitude. The players won’t truly know what they’ve done yet but will do in years to come as they’re now stuff of legend with a medal and a title that can never be taken away from them.

    Franco has done the near impossible and we need to make sure he doesn’t get lost to our game. For the Scots boys, they need to understand they are good enough and when it matters they can find what’s needed. I hope this is the start of something.

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    • There has been some chat about Smith being a candidate to replace Erasmus. I don’t know if that is likely or not.

      Otherwise I agree, Smith has done a superb job and we should do whatever we can to keep him in Scottish rugby, whether that is a long contract at Glasgow, offering the Scotland job, whatever he wants.

      Not many fans cheered when he was announced as Glasgow’s coach after the Wilson debacle. Shows how much we know.

  5. There is a hint in there about Jim Telfer’s Lions speech about honest players. There is a belief now and if we can control our discipline and keep our best players there could be some brilliant years ahead.

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  6. Enjoy the moment, no one can take it away from you. But for most it’s only part of the journey, these players will drive themselves on for more and more. 🐻.

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