Peel keeps his cool as South Africa trip heats up
Dwayne Peel insists there is no need to press the panic button as his Scarlets head into another testing BKT URC assignment out in South Africa.
Peel’s team conceded nine tries as they went down to a thumping 63-21 defeat at the hands of the Vodacom Bulls at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld last Sunday.
It doesn’t get any easier now, with a trip to Stellenbosch to take on the DHL Stormers – BKT URC finalists for the past two seasons – coming up this Saturday.
But head coach Peel is quick to stress it’s very early days yet in a long campaign.
“It’s one game and it’s important to recognise that. It was the first game of the season,” said the former Wales and Lions scrum-half. “Yes, we lost by 60  points. Yes, we had a nasty defeat. I appreciate there is an angle around us losing heavily and that’s fine. We will take that on the chin, no problem.
“I have been in a Scarlets side where we have lost heavily and gone on to do some really good things in the same season. It’s not a case of panic stations by any means.
“This South African trip was always going to be a tough one. We knew that when the fixture list came out, with these as our first two games. We are here without a lot of our senior players and internationals. That’s the reality.
“There is obviously disappointment in the group and a bit of frustration as well. We have to recognise it was a a poor loss for us and a heavy loss. But we have to move on and make sure we build as the season goes ahead. There is quality within the group and quality to come back in, so it’s not a case of hitting the panic button off the wall. We will keep working hard and I know we will improve.
“Saracens lost by 60 points two weeks ago and we know they are going to be there or thereabouts by the end of the season.”
Reflecting on the defeat to the Bulls, who pulled well clear after leading 28-14 at the break, Peel said: “It was a tough afternoon, there is no point hiding around that.
“The conditions were very difficult and we came up against a team that were on fire. The physicality and speed of their play was tough to manage. We just didn’t manage to cope with it. When the African sides get on top of you, it’s difficult to hold them.
“A couple of boys who had their first taste of URC rugby will have had their eyes opened a bit. The Bulls have got a lot of depth, a lot of quality and a lot of big men. They are a good outfit and they are a daunting task for anyone at Loftus. It’s a very difficult place to go.
“The lessons for us are you have to be accurate in what you are doing and try and stay in the game, as we have done in the past. We beat that same Bulls side earlier this year.”
Next up for the Scarlets are a Stormers team who kicked off their BKT URC season with a 35-33 bonus point victory over the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.
“We have a massive challenge this week playing against a side that has reached the final the last two years,” said Peel. “They are similar to the Bulls in some ways in that when they get on top of you they are very physical and they keep the gain-line. Evan Roos and Hacjivah Dayimani, in particular, are cracking players.
“Then, from a backs perspective, they are very sharp out wide. They want to play expansive rugby and they are razor sharp on turnover ball. They are renowned for that. It’s going to be another big occasion and another big challenge for us on South African soil. We have to improve for this week. Seeing who has got the resilience to bounce back is going to be interesting from a coach perspective.”
Whatever the result, Peel insists there will be long-term benefits from the two-match trip. “We have come away with a lot of young boys who haven’t done much touring before and that is part of it,” he said. “It’s experiencing the heat of going away, experiencing being in a different country and testing that out. As always with these South Africa trips, you have to come away feeling you have bonded and got a bit of togetherness.
“The experiences our young kids are having out here now will definitely bode well for them for the future.”
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