Leaving the stadium of the University in Port Elizabeth that bears Nelson Mandela’s name, it seems the Glasgow Warriors were taking in a dose of the great man’s famous humility.
After the 38-28 humiliation they suffered at the hands of the Southern Kings the Warriors were grasping for positives but the only ones they seemed to come up with were old faithfuls like `everything that could go wrong, did go wrong’ and `it can’t get any worse than this’.
Some Warriors fans – and not a few journalists – were envisaging a six-game unbeaten streak to take the team all the way to their date with twice-European champions Saracens at Scotstoun in three weeks. After the Kings, who had won only one game in their short life in the Guinness PRO14, were home games against Dragons and Zebre.
Instead, the carelessness with the ball shown in the first half against the Cheetahs returned and this time there was to be no great escape. 24-0 down at half time, and lucky for it to be only that, the Warriors rallied in the second half but could never get close.
“We saw last week against the Cheetahs how punished we were in the first half, we spoke about it this week and it was frustrating to see out on the pitch that when we dropped balls we were slow to react again,” said Ruaridh Jackson.
“They were obviously fired up, physical and pounced on anything loose and severely punished us. It will be a painful one to look back on, that’s for sure.”
Jackson said that the Warriors hadn’t been complacent, but for all that the Kings have unquestionably improved from a campaign last year which brought that solitary win against the Dragons, they shouldn’t be beating a team widely regard as potential PRO14 champions.
The previous week at Cheetahs the Warriors had rallied at half-time and scored five tries in the second half, but the deficit was considerably more attainable that night.
“The fact that we hadn’t even scored a point come half-time was a bit of a shock, whereas we were only a score behind last week,” continued Jackson. “We maybe tried to force things a bit too much trying to chase it and a bit of panic set in.
“You look up at at the scoreboard at 60 minutes and we’ve still not got a point, I think we maybe just tried to push things a little when we should have stuck to our systems and really ground them down.”
Dave Rennie called it “absolutely” the worst performance under his tenure, and there will be some soul-searching going on after what has been in the end a sobering sojourn in South Africa.
The second half in Bloemfontein was a highlight, but they lost Stuart Hogg and Zander Fagerson to long-term injury and the form of a number of players must concern the head coach.
The fringe men fielded against the Kings didn’t step up to the mark but there must also be concern about the lack of form of key reliables like Ryan Wilson and Pete Horne, and that Huw Jones is still struggling to make an impact for the Warriors.
The defence is another area of extreme concern. Apart from the Munster game and the second half of the Cheetahs, the Warriors’ tackling has been abject, the midfield defence on Saturday punctured continually.
Jackson feels the loss will be a huge wake-up call for the squad ahead of much more difficult assignments coming up.
“These sort of things can sometimes be a real reminder that we can’t just coast along and things will just come good,” he said. “Certainly doing it this time in the season will give us time to have an honest reflection on ourselves and hopefully we can put things into place and right the wrongs that we were showing on the field today.
“I think that can put us in a better place. We can definitely use it as a tool to push on and I really hope we can do.”