Press Pass with Mike Blair

Press Pass with Mike Blair

Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with press in the build-up to Saturday's United Rugby Championship Round 4 clash with Vodacom Bulls at DAM Health Stadium.

On facing Springboks stand-off Morne Steyn

“I wouldn’t have thought he’ll start. Chris Smith did pretty well when he came on [for injured Johan Goosen v Cardiff] and he’s got a big boot on him as well.

“But yeah, not a bad call up is he? He’s [Steyn] a good player. His main strength is his kicking game which as we know, at DAM Health Stadium, is an important facet of the game.”

“The type of player he is, he’s probably still got a couple of years in him. He’s like Brian Hay-Smith. The Rolls-Royce. He keeps his shirt clean, he moves the guys around the pitch. He’s like the conductor - he puts the team in the right places."

On the Vodacom Bulls being 'the strongest' of the South African sides

“We certainly thought that before the competition started and watching the second-half in particular of the Cardiff game you could see they were starting to click into gear.

“I think it would have been nice to get the South African teams in week 1 and week 2 when they were a little bit rusty but I think now they’re starting to hit their straps.

“It’ll be a real contest for us. They’re a huge team. I read Dai Young’s quote saying they’re the biggest team he thinks he’s ever faced in his life. You look at the back row in particular and they’re absolutely huge men and they play to that as a strength.

“So whether it’s Morne Steyn or Chris Smith, we expect them to march them around the pitch and try to put them in good areas so we need to try to combat that.”

On the size of Vodacom Bulls and adapting the team's game plan

“Darcy’s held his own so far, hasn’t he?

“Across the game, guys are definitely getting bigger but I think you are also seeing a slight change in style as well. You look at that Harlequins model and it’s interesting because you tend to look at the top performing teams.

“When South Africa win the World Cup playing their brand of rugby, teams try to mimic what they’re doing. Harlequins last season you thought might be a bit of a one off, like a Leicester City scenario. But this season they’ve started back again and when something becomes popular it becomes something other teams want to play.

“And to play that game you can’t have 19-stone players all across the pack and the backs.

"You still need to be able to play the way that suits your team but in the same breath, seeing Harlequins do what they’re doing, and seeing the way Bristol last season shifted the ball, keeping the ball in hand, you need to have more players lighter on their feet to be able to sustain that.

“The Bulls are certainly a different proposition and it’ll show our guys mentally where we’re at because you’ve got to be right on your game to take on that type of team.”

On Blair Kinghorn and Hamish Watson's return to fitness

“Blair was out training with us during the backs unit session, so we don’t believe he’s far off.

“Hamish has made really good progress. It’s a case of days rather than weeks. They’re not far off.

"Could they play next weekend against Zebre? There’s a chance.”

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