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Ospreys coach Steve Tandy: 'One year on, we're heading in the right direction'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 15, 2013

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FORGET the bottle of wine and the candlelit dinner — Steve Tandy will celebrate his first anniversary tonight at a windswept venue that doubles up as a dog track.

And there will be a few thousand people there for company, most of them hoping his night doesn't go well.

Welcome to the paper anniversary of the Ospreys head coach.

It is 12 months to the day that he took over from Sean Holley and the one guarantee tonight is that Connacht in Galway will look to do all they can to ruin the occasion for him.

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But whatever the outcome Tandy will be able to reflect with quiet satisfaction on the most remarkable year of his career.

It seems only last week that journalists gathered in the Data Cabs Lounge at the Liberty Stadium to learn the name of the region's new head coach. Holley and Scott Johnson had left the Ospreys, press releases had previously confirmed.

On the top table there was a card with Andrew Hore's name on it and another one that read simply: "Head coach, Ospreys."

Who was it? Agatha Christie might have picked up a few tips as the door creaked open, Hore walked in and Tandy followed him. Not so much the policeman who did it as the former flanker who was going to do it.

It is fair to say some among the Ospreys supporters would have hoped for a stellar coaching name.

And a low-key start, which saw the region lose two out of their first three games under Tandy, did little to allay fears that there were difficult times ahead.

But then the internationals returned from the Six Nations and within days it was apparent that Tandy could get the best out of them, a 23-22 win over Leinster in Dublin ending the Irish province's 20-game unbeaten run and proving the trigger for a surge that took the region to the Pro12 title.

"What has Steve brought to us? No bulls**t, for starters," said Alun Wyn Jones three months into Tandy's reign.

"There are a lot of frills that can come with sport, but Steve has done away with them. He just gets on with it."

Tandy has got on with it ever since.

In common with the other regions, the Ospreys have played out the past year against a backdrop of player departures, belt tightening and huge uncertainty in Welsh rugby.

But in that time they have won 18 out of 24 Pro12 games, including ten out of their last 11 in the competition; they defeated Toulouse in the Heineken Cup and drew with Leicester; and they have blooded countless youngsters.

Challenge

Tandy deserves credit for that. He has maximised strengths and shored up areas of potential weakness, two of the big challenges that face any coach, and he has encouraged his players to play for the shirt, notably against Ulster last week when the Welsh region went to Ravenhill missing 23 players yet still prevailed, with youngsters rising to the challenge.

But the former Neath flanker isn't big on pats on the back. For him, it has been the collective effort that has been all important.

"A coach is only as good as the people around him and the players he is dealing with," said Tandy.

"At the Ospreys, I have some top coaches working with me in Gruff (Rees), Humph (Jonathan Humphreys), Benny (Mark Bennett) and several others. The players have also been outstanding.

"It has been really tough at times this season and will continue to be with the way the campaign is structured, but we have just tried to make the best of things.

"When we played Toulouse in France in the Heineken Cup we were missing a shedload of players through injuries and we only had a couple of days' preparation because of the Wales-Australia game the week before — and we were delayed all day at Bristol airport when we were travelling out.

"But we gathered the senior boys together in the airport and told them we didn't want to use excuses for not performing in France. To be honest, they didn't need telling, anyway. That is the kind of environment we have: one that doesn't tolerate excuses for poor displays.

"You could see it last week when we went to Ulster missing all those players. Some of the displays were outstanding. I don't like singling out players but you couldn't help be impressed by Scott Baldwin. He put in 13 ball carries in the first 20 minutes and finished with 24 all told, plus a load of tackles.

"He was only one: Sam Lewis, Morgan Allen, Joe Bearman, Ryan Bevington — I could pretty much run through the side. All the boys were superb."

The Ospreys have become a mirror image of Tandy: hardworking and self-critical, no-nonsense and to the point. It is rare these days that they fail to put in a performance.

"The response of the boys over the past year has been great," said Tandy.

"All of them love playing for the Ospreys.

"From Ryan Jones to young Dafydd Howells, every one of them is desperate to pull on the shirt.

"We haven't got everything right, and a lot needs to happen in Welsh rugby to help out all the regions, but I think we are heading in the right direction.

"I can't wait for the Heineken Cup next season. I really believe if we can keep our players fit we can give anyone a game."

Enjoy the night.

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