Seb is 25 years old, and has been blogging for The Rugby City for just over a year. His favourite memory at the Liberty was a recent one: "Ospreys v Munster in last season’s RaboDirect PRO12 Play-Off. Ospreys beat the Munstermen 45-10 and, as the scoreline suggests, totally dominated the game. Munster don’t get beaten like that. Ever. The weather was perfect and the tries plentiful."
Ospreylians will still be glowing from the memories of May 27th, 2012. That day, the men in black went to Leinster’s backyard in Dublin – a fortress, as they quite rightly call it – and beat the newly crowned Champions of Europe. That’s experience that money can’t buy, which is why a largely unchanged Ospreys team will be setting out to own the RaboDirect PRO12 again this season.
For various reasons, they’ve managed to keep hold of Adam Jones, arguably the world’s best tighthead prop, at a time when players of his majestic ilk are playing for Euro millions in France. The continued improvement of stalwarts Ryan Jones and Alun Wyn Jones, and the return of the once and future king of the second row, Ian Evans, is a scary prospect for opponents.
As well as their multitude of regular internationals, they are bolstered by a spine of players who prove themselves again and again when the big names are away on national duty. Players such as livewire centre Tom Isaacs, free-running fullback Richard Fussell and robust loosehead prop Ryan Bevington are complemented by the likes of Kahn Fotuali’i and George Stowers, the Samoans who at scrum-half and number eight respectively bring a bit of exoticism to what is a predominantly homegrown squad.
Word from the Ospreys camp is that last season’s fringe players James King (second row), Scott Baldwin (hooker), Ross Jones (fullback) and Eli Walker (wing) are performing well, so expect them to get a lot more game time this year. Ashley Beck and Rhys Webb — breakthrough players for Ospreys last season — will return to their region with the added experience of having toured with Wales to Australia.
The Ospreys should be praised for their commitment to sustainable success on and off the field. Was it just fortuitous that their triumph in last season's RaboDirect PRO12 coincided with their burgeoning role at heart of the local community? Season tickets purchased for the 2012/13 season are nearing the 9000 mark – a record figure, up more than 4000 on last year – so the answer to that question is probably no.
The Libertines haven't fallen prey to the football-style mass clearout –especially of key personnel- which has blighted one or two of the other regions. This bodes well for the new season. Rome wasn't built in a day (though, to be facetious, neither was any other city), and neither were the dynasties of Celtic rugby, such as Leinster and Munster. The spirit of old-school Welsh rugby is being recaptured in Swansea, and missing out is not an option.
Best addition to your side? Familiarity is the key word – the lack of transfer talk in Swansea is heartening. That said, new head coach Steve Tandy had a dream run as he took the reins at the tail end of last season.
Opening day prediction? Though Treviso away has now become more than just a slight irritation for travelling teams, I fully expect Ospreys to get a (hard-fought) win that will set up their season perfectly.
Overall season prediction for your side? With the talent in the side, and with a credible young coach overseeing things, Ospreys should be hungry enough to go all the way to the Final.
Other predictions? Dan Biggar will continue to top the points list. He is a rock at fly-half. Can Hanno Dirksen beat Tim Visser’s season record of thirteen tries? He’ll have fun trying.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12? A fantasy scenario of an all-Welsh Play-Offs aside, the Ospreys can again see off the advances of the big Irish provinces and a Glasgow team in the ascension to win the coveted title.