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Class is permanent say champs

Guinness PRO12 Editor

12 May 2011

Ospreys boss Scott Johnson is hoping one of the game’s oldest mantra’s comes into play in Saturday’s Play-Off semi-final with Munster.

The reigning champions travel to Limerick on the back of a series of below-par performances but Johnson is confident his players will show that, while form is temporary, class is permanent.

The Ospreys head to mid-west Ireland having scraped past Aironi to reach the final four following recent defeats to Munster, the Dragons and Edinburgh. And although Johnson admits that it’s hardly ideal form to be taking to one of the sport’s most-feared venues, it doesn’t mean his men can’t continue the defence of their crown all the way to a Grand Final showdown in a fortnight’s time.

"We have got to be honest with ourselves, our form the last five weeks hasn't been great, but the most encouraging thing is we've taken a point or more in every game, which has allowed us to get in the position we have,” said Johnson.

"We're trying everything in our power to make sure we get some form. If we get our form, we're quite confident we can go there and do it.

"It's a bit of a balancing act. Confidence is a funny thing. You drop a couple of balls and, all of a sudden, players who appear confident just lost their confidence. A few of our players have had a big season and have come back just a little down.

"Our form was good earlier on and, through a year, it ebbs and flows but we are right in the middle of a dip. We're hoping we come out of it. It would be good timing if we could, and we think we can.

"Class is permanent, form is a temporary measure. The other night against Aironi was appalling … there's no doubt about it. It was terrible but I'm hoping we can turn that around.”

To turn things around at Thomond Park would be a remarkable achievement but one that the Ospreys have already proved isn’t beyond them.

While Johnson and co have already lost there twice this year and been beaten by Munster at the Liberty Stadium last month, they know what it takes to leave Limerick with a precious victory.

The only Welsh side to reach this year’s top four tasted success at Thomond last term when they recorded a 15-11 victory on their way to clinching a third Magners League crown.

And while Johnson is expecting the toughest of tasks this weekend, the Australian is confident the Ospreys can match that achievement this time out.

"We can take something from that. We have done it before,” added Johnson.

"We are really confident we can go out there and do well – they know there's a semi-final at stake.

"We have won this competition before, too, so there is history with that, but that was last year.

"I don’t think they’ll be too pleased to meet us. They were very confident we were out two weeks ago but the irony is that we play them again and we have shown there's nothing much between the two teams over the last couple of years, so I think it will be a very good arm-wrestle.

"Since I have been here, Welsh sides don't thrive on being favourites in any competition so it's probably a good opportunity to throw the gauntlet back at them."


The Ospreys and Munster meet for the fifth time this season

Munster’s record at Thomond Park this season has been impressive as ever, with the Red Army winning all seven of their Magners League ties in Limerick, plus a further four in Cork.

But they did come unstuck on home turf against Harlequins two weeks ago, slipping to a surprise 20-12 defeat in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

That result is unlikely to have any bearing on Saturday’s match up, however, with Johnson admitting his side know it won’t simply be a case of turning up and automatically following Quins’ example.

"You look over a year and teams are going to have drops in performances. That might be Munster not playing so well against Harlequins but they have been exceptional all year in the Magners.

"Harlequins were up for it and, when you get this close in big competitions, it only needs you being slightly off or them being slightly on – that’s the difference between losing and winning at this level.

"So we're not going to take a great deal out of it. We will look at the games we have played with them because we have played each other enough. We’ll try and find the balance, where we can beat them, our skill-set against theirs.

"This week is about trying to get our part right. The pressure is off us in some ways and maybe that will relax people. Hopefully, there's a benefit that we can drive off that. We're in good spirits, it's just that some of our skill-sets have been disappointing."