A top-of-the-table Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash against Leinster in Dublin is a golden opportunity for the DHL Stormers to learn how to win overseas, says forwards coach Rito Hlungwani.
The Stormers arrived in Dublin on Monday after leaving South Africa on Sunday and taking a long flight with a stopover in Doha.
The defending champions will have two training sessions and a captain’s run this week before their first match at the RDS Arena.
While their winning run at home is the stuff of legend, the Stormers have endured mixed results overseas this season. Their first tour of the season produced a win, draw and a loss, while, more recently, they suffered a hard-fought defeat in Glasgow and an injury-hit side was decisively beaten by Ulster.
Speaking to the media from Dublin on Tuesday afternoon, Hlungwani explained that Friday night’s big game will be an important one in the Stormers’ development.
“We must be comfortable with coming overseas and winning games. For example, the Champions Cup is a destination final and it will be happening here in Dublin. So in our minds, this is a good game for us, just like when we were last overseas, it’s a good game to get used to the conditions, the training ground and the hotel.
“Like I said, we want to get comfortable with winning overseas, so this is definitely part of us developing as a team.”
Given that the game takes place less than a week after Ireland claimed the Six Nations, Leinster are unlikely to have most of their internationals, but Hlungwani said that this won’t make it any easier for the Stormers.
“Look, from our side, the key thing is that we want to improve and get better with our performances overseas. Whether you are playing Leinster-A or Leinster-B, it’s going to be tough and competitive. Both are good sides. Whatever runs out the tunnel, we know it’s going to be a tough challenge.”
Leinster are on a 15-game unbeaten run this season, which makes for good reading regarding the strength of Irish rugby when combined with Ireland and Ireland U20’s Six Nations title wins.
“From a distance, we can see that the system works like a well-oiled machine,” Hlungwani said. “The academy system that they have seems to be doing very well.
“We have also picked up that their school system is also in a very good place. They also run a centralised contracting system. The nice thing about it, for example, is that Ireland takes the full bill for a player like Johnny Sexton, so Leinster can take that money and use it for the school or academy systems.
“We are also in a good space with how our systems run, our relationship with SA Rugby is very strong and positive, and we are building something quite solid. We are still looking to improve, but what we are building is unique and works for us. We feel like we are in a good space.
“As much as we are the champions, we are still getting used to playing in the northern hemisphere. There is still lots of room for improvement.”
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