Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes upbeat ahead of Ospreys clash
A MERE fortnight after being unable to find any positives in Ulster’s insipid loss to Cardiff, head coach Jono Gibbes was full of praise of his team’s response in last week’s away win over Edinburgh.
Now the New Zealander will be looking for more of the same in back-to-back home PRO 14 games against Ospreys and Glasgow, starting with the Welsh test on Friday night.
Ospreys, who beat Connacht at the weekend, are coached by former Ulster forwards specialist Allen Clarke (right), who left Kingspan Stadium at the end of last season.
Gibbes knows that the former Ulster hooker will possess plenty of inside knowledge on his former charges, particularly in the pack.
“It’s a unique game here. I asked a question who has worked with Allen Clarke as a player coming through and ‘Besty’ (Rory Best) stuck his hand up! So I said there’s a guy who has had some longevity in this organisation,” said Gibbes.
“He knows the players, especially the forwards, so he’ll know what he needs to do for the Ospreys and so it’s a unique game for our forwards.
“They will have a hell a lot of intelligence and inside knowledge and it’s up to our guys to make sure they rise up to the challenge.
“Speaking to [Ulster analyst] Niall [Malone], he knows what sort of things that ‘Clarkey’ looks for and what he puts emphasis on.
“So Niall has given me has given me good insights and stuff. I assume [Clarke has introduced] a bit of consistency and I would say it’s just to become a little bit more efficient and accurate and some of that basic stuff.
“The Ospreys have been a little bit more consistent recently to put themselves into a position to win games.
“They have had a few tight ones but they’ve come out on the right side of that and Allen has brought possibly a tighter focus on things.”
Gibbes is fully aware that Ulster will have to reproduce the sort of form they displayed in ending a run of three straight defeats with the win at Murrayfield if they are to keep their PRO14 and European Champions Cup play-off hopes alive with another victory.
“Our ability to string three passes together has been up and down through the season which has sort of negated a bit of our tactical opportunity,” he said.
“Against Edinburgh, getting over the gainline, we carried well, got quick ball and that allowed us to cross on the outside.
“There was a bit of a mix of everything. For me passion is energy. Enthusiasm is what you put into things, getting off the ground and working off the ball, and we had it in spades, that energy.
“I said after Cardiff, coaching had to be better, selection had to be better, players’ input had to be better, and certainly with the attack, Dwayne [Peel] has done great work through the year.
“It’s been frustrating for him in certain aspects, but it was a good reward for his effort too. Some of the selection, we got a bit of a reaction, and energy, I think the players were great.
“To keep giving ourselves an opportunity to get through to the last round-robin [game] and have something to play for, it’s important you back it up.
“For the players, their satisfaction afterwards, they understand what they consistently need to do to benefit and enjoy that reward, so they are keen to back that up.”
Prop Wiehahn Herbst will miss Friday’s game and probably the rest of the season with a knee injury.