Paul has been an Ospreys fan since they formed the region. I was born in Neath and lived in Swansea for his teenage years. He says the formation of the Ospreys seemed like a blessing!
The Ospreys have always been a team with a winning mentality. With the previous season ending with the men in black chalking up a Play-Off demolition of previous champions Munster and a thrilling, away-from-home, 1 point toppling of Irish giants Leinster; a game which will be firmly lodged in any fans memory for years to come. It almost seemed to overshadow the fact that a mass-exodus was lurking around the corner; a total of 20 players are no longer with the Ospreys, with 10 of those being international capped players and 3 of those 10 players being the all-time leading try scorers of the Ospreys. With the new coaching staff led by former Osprey, Steve Tandy, the message was clear: Adapt and persevere.
The start to the 2012/2013 RaboDirect PRO12 season could not have been more turbulent for the high-flying champions: a three-game losing streak, with two losses at home and a loss against an Italian outfit who had never mustered a victory against the defending champions. It seemed that the Osprey's wings had been clipped. It wasn't until an east-west derby between the Opsreys and local rivals Scarlets that the RaboDirect PRO12 champions found their feet.
Statistically, the odds were against the Ospreys from the start. The Scarlets had won 3 from 3 games, with two being bonus-point victories and a star-studded back-line that would have any team wishing they had stayed at home. Despite all this, the Ospreys dogged out for a victory that was both impressive and long overdue.
Their outing against Munster showed their new found vigour. It seems that Steve Tandy's men now have nothing to fear against the Irish powerhouse. Running in 3 tries and keeping a determined Munster squad tryless, with man of the match Richard Hibbard leading a strong, aggressive pack.
Their visit to the Stadio XXV Aprile to take on the RaboDirect PRO12 new boys Zebre proved just as fortuitous. Three tries and a dominant display from fly-half Dan Biggar showed the Ospreys’ intent to banish their demons for good. It seems that there will be no more opportunities for any more slip-ups in the Italian sunshine for this RaboDirect PRO12 season.
To continue this season in a positive stead, the Ospreys will need to keep their heads clear and their objective simple: to win. They have some tough games, away from home, against squads who have yet to falter or show signs of weakness. Table-topping Ulster and European Juggernauts Leinster will both be looking to derail the Ospreys campaign and severely hamper their chances of a strong, end of season Play-Off position.
Against all this, the Opsreys have plenty of experienced players in their ranks and have a youthful depth to their squad that is capable of playing fast-paced, attractive Rugby. With a pack consisting of multi-grand slam winners and try-scoring strike runners Ashley Beck and Hanno Dirksen hungry to add more tries to their already impressive tally, the sky is indeed the limit for the defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions; hopefully they will continue to soar.
Biggest surprise so far? – Connacht's result against Leinster. It was great to see Connacht rack up a bonus point win against their old Irish rivals.
Most valuable player so far this season? – I would go for Nick Williams. He has been outstanding so far and is proving to be a solid addition.
Overall season prediction for your side? – I think the Ospreys have shaken off their demons and will easily finish in the top 4, with the end of season form resulting in a place in the Play-Offs.
Prediction: Home Play-Offs: Win
Away Play-Offs: loss in the semi-finals
Other predictions? – I think Dan Biggar will win top points scorer while Tim Visser will claim another top try scoring award. He will need to claim them before he gets called for international duty though! I also think the Scarlets will have something up their sleeve, possibly try of the year. Their backline is superb and easily capable of pulling off spectacular running rugby.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12? – It would be wrong of me to not say the Ospreys! I think it will be between Ospreys and Ulster. They are looking very strong so far and look like they can take it all the way to the Final.