URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: Josh McKay shrugs off Warriors’ travel demands

Full-back grew up watching the Bulls in Super Rugby and views this showdown as vindication of his decision to leave New Zealand to play in Scotland

Josh McKay has started at full-back in 21 out of 245 games for Glasgow Warriors so far this season. Image © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Josh McKay has started at full-back in 21 out of 245 games for Glasgow Warriors so far this season. Image © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THERE’S been a fair bit of chat this week about the fact Glasgow Warriors have had to travel nearly 9,000 miles with just a week’s notice to play in Saturday’s URC Grand Final against Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria – but full-back Josh McKay shrugs off the notion that the schedule has left his team with an unfair mountain to climb.

Having grown up watching the Bulls play against his beloved Crusaders in Super Rugby, and then being part of the action as a Highlander, before moving north to join Warriors in 2021, the 26-year-old New Zealander views the inconvenience of a 14 hour flight from Glasgow to South Africa as simply part of the job.

“My take on it is that when we were travelling for Super Rugby from New Zealand [taking a minimum of 15 hours], one of the difficult things was the heat factor – it’s usually hotter in South Africa,” he shrugged. “Then you’ve got the altitude factor, but you’ve also got the time difference. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s nine, ten, 11 hours [time difference between New Zealand and South Africa] which is probably almost the hardest thing to adjust to, because it would mean on a game day you’re waking up at 4am and you’re not playing till maybe 4pm or 6pm.

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“Whereas here [today] I woke up at half-eight, it’s a normal routine, there’s only an hour time difference. So you’ve got your normal sleep hours, your routine stays the same: that’s probably one of the biggest differences I’ve seen between travelling from Europe versus travelling from New Zealand.

“Wherever you go, you want to be playing in big games and finals,” he added. “It’s really awesome to still be able to do these trips to South Africa. You grow up getting up at three in the morning to watch the Crusaders play the Bulls and the likes. So it’s absolutely vindication [of the decision to move to Scotland] and I’m just really excited to have a good week and put in a performance we can be proud of.

“I’m just really looking forward to the challenge ahead. Yes, I’m not wearing a Crusaders jersey but it’s awesome wearing the Warriors jersey playing in an awesome stadium against awesome opposition.”

Fellow New Zealander Tom Jordan has featured in all 25 matches played by Glasgow so far this season, which is a remarkable effort, especially as it comes on the back of playing in all but three of Warriors’ matches during his rookie 2022-23 campaign.

However, McKay – who was recently voted Warriors’ player of the season by the team’s fans – has played more minutes than any other player in the squad with 1,661, just ahead of Stafford McDowall on on 1,607 and Jordan on 1,470.

In terms of the URC, he leads his team in metres gained on 1,073 (second in the league), defenders beaten on 49 (joint second in the league), offloads on 21 (fifth in the league) and carries on 191 (joint second in the league).

“To be injury-free and fit for selection every week is where we want to be physically as rugby players,” said McKay. “In my first couple of years I still managed to play a decent amount of games but I had to have a couple of surgeries. Last year’s was a season-ender to my foot and the season before was to my ankle.

“That obviously makes it difficult to be available every week so this year it’s good to be injury-free. My body has been in a good spot all season. It’s helped me to play a lot of rugby and as rugby players that’s what we want. It’s been awesome.

“When you’re playing consistently it helps your confidence and you can grow as a player on the field and you can build combinations. It’s been an awesome season with the Warriors and I’m absolutely loving life in Scotland in Glasgow.”




Saturday’s referee is Andrea Piardi, who also officiated last weekend’s semi-final win for Warriors over Munster. In that match he awarded six penalties against Warriors inside the first 11 minutes, and sin-binned two of their players before half-time. But the second half was a different story and Warriors ended up winning the penalty count 13-11.

“We didn’t start too flash, did we? So we can probably take a learning from that,” acknowledged McKay.

“It’s a final, he going to ref it how he sees it. I think the easiest thing that we can do is focus on ourselves. And if that means not getting too greedy at the breakdown or getting pinged for offside then that’s a pretty easy fix.

“I think we might have been a little too eager there, maybe [against Munster]. It’s a massive game so we don’t want to be giving away silly penalties, particularly in the first 10 minutes.

“We’ve got to have confidence in ourselves and back ourselves, which I think we do. We just need to not get too far ahead of ourselves, just play it moment by moment, minute by minute and not think of the outcome as being as important as nailing the processes throughout the whole 80 minutes.

“We know the challenges of playing at altitude and what Loftus can bring. We’ve had a couple of games over here to get a feel for what it’s going to feel like on the lungs.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want to focus on that we’ve not talked about it too much – we just want to get on with the job at hand.”

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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.