This Saturday brings a big challenge to The Sportsground as South African side Sharks come to Galway for Round 12 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Speaking ahead of the game was Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins who feels this is a “must win game’ for the team as they look to keep touch of the play off positions.

“It is a must win game and I know Andy (Friend) said that in his post match after Leinster and there’s truth in it” said Wilkins.

“We have had a lot of must win stages in this season to date, after the first three games of the season everyone said we had to win”

“There have been a few junctures where we’ve recognised the importance of a game and the result needed and this week is one of those”

With such importance on the need for a win could a defeat be a major set back for Connacht?

“I know its a cliche to say it but we just take one game at a time, we have to win the next challenge on front of us and that’s where our focus is”

“We’ve finished our interpros for the year and they can be our toughest games, we had a tough start to the season so it has been a challenging year but we’re on the other side of that now and in touch of the top eight”

“We’re confident we can get a result this weekend”

Pete was asked if the players are ready for Saturday and if they are feeling the pressure.

“There’s a disappointment with the players after the last two results and obviously there’s that frustration after losing a game” said Wilkins

“There’s a good group of lads here and as coaches we never question their attitude heading into games”

“Every week these lads push each other to be better, sometimes results don’t go your way but its how you grow from that”

“These lads will be ready for Saturday no doubt about it”

The Sharks are coming to The Sportsground in really good form having not lost a game since November but Connacht will look to end that.

“They are a really interesting team, they are exciting to watch” said Wilkins

“They score quickly and don’t need a lot of phases but equally other teams tend to score against them without much phases”

“The challenge for us is to control those big moments and big players they have so they don’t get that quick reward”

“On our side we need to make sure we make them work and put them through their phases and ultimately get the ball back”

“We need to take them to somewhere where they are less comfortable”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available HERE

It’s Round 12 for us in the BKT United Rugby Championship this Saturday as we welcome South African side Sharks to The Sportsground.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s game.

When’s the game?

Kick-off is 5.15pm on Saturday 7th January.

What’s the state of play so far?

Connacht come into the game looking to bounce back from the weekends defeat to Leinster at the RDS

The Sharks arrive to Galway having beaten the DHL Stormers at the weekend on the back of a 100% winning record during the month of December.

How’s our recent record against them?

Our only meeting with the Sharks came last season in Durban when the home side won 41-21. This was our second game in South Africa at the end of a long season having beaten the Lions the previous weekend.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad on Friday at midday when it will be named on connachtrugby.ie and the Connacht Rugby social channels.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets available HERE

What channel is it on?

TV viewing on RTE 2 and Viaplay while Galway Bay FM have live radio commentary.

Connacht get ready for their second game down in South Africa this Saturday as they take on the Cell C Sharks at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban, kick-off is 15:05pm (Irish time)

 

As we near the end of season, Connacht Lock Gavin Thornbury is only hoping for more game time after recently coming back from a lengthy spell out on the side-lines due to a shoulder injury.

 

“The last thing I want is a break and the season to end because I just want to keep playing games” said Thornbury.

 

“It was meant to be a twelve-week injury and in week ten I hit a setback and from there every couple of months was a setback, so it was incredibly frustrating”

 

“The physio team were unbelievable, and our S&C Barry O’Brien was incredible and kept me going but it is very frustrating as you just want to play and help the squad”

 

Confidence is high in the squad after last weekend’s win in Johannesburg against the Emirates Lions and this camp is one where the players have been able to spend more time than usual with each other.

 

“The social aspect has been good and obviously getting the win on Saturday just added to it but it’s another big weekend and we are really looking forward to the challenge”

 

“We’re with each other the whole time which is really good as you get to know people more on that personal level which has been really positive, but it does feel different to normal”

 

“We’re lucky enough that both the hotels we’re staying in have good facilities, so we have darts, table tennis and a good pool to use during our time off”

 

Last weekend was a real test for the players when it came to training and playing at altitude which Gavin discussed this week in the lead up to this Saturday’s match in Durban.

 

“When we arrived over last Monday, we had a light session on Tuesday and then big enough session on Wednesday, but I think after that it was a shock to the system because you are gasping for air very quickly which I wouldn’t be used to”

 

“You don’t get used to it as it is very tough, but you do find ways to help yourself and I think the lads did a brilliant job on Saturday being able to control the game in certain aspects and fight through the fatigue from lack of oxygen”

 

The Cell C Sharks have been impressive in the Ultimate Rugby Championship this season including a good win over Leinster on Saturday and Gavin expects another tough test this weekend.

 

“The Sharks are a quality side who are massive set-piece focus team who have a really strong scrum, line-out and maul, they also have x-factor players in the back-line”

 

“It’s a massive challenge and everyone knows it but it’s one again we are really looking forward to”

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