Don Armand insists Exeter Chiefs will make the most of time off to ensure they are in fine fettle for the visit of lowly Bristol to Sandy Park in the Aviva Premiership next month.
Having failed to advance through the group stages of this season’s European Champions Cup, the Chiefs are set to have their first weekend off since the start of the season as others battle it out for Europe’s top prize.
The chance to recharge the batteries at a crucial stage of the season will certainly be welcomed, but the rest will only be short-lived for Rob Baxter’s squad as they gear up for what is a huge end to the season.
With just four rounds of the scheduled season remaining, Devon’s finest find themselves positioned nicely in the top two and on course for a place in the end of season play-offs.
Saturday’s 30-25 home win over Sale Sharks helped to cement that position, but it was hardly vintage stuff from the Chiefs who had to overcome not only the steely Sharks, but also testing conditions at Sandy Park.
“It was tough out there, especially with the conditions as well,” admitted skipper Armand at the final whistle. “It showed the different playing styles in each half from each team, but we came away with the win and the bonus point so we’re not going to complain too much.”
Although happy to collect all five points on offer, head coach Baxter wasn’t exactly overly enamoured with his side’s showing and said his players would need to “shake themselves up” during the remainder of the season.
“It’s a game we have to learn from,” added Armand, whose late try ensured the bonus point for his side. “In previous years we may have lost this game, but it shows how we are progressing that on days when we’re not quite on our game, we’re still getting the win and picking up all five points.
“That’s a big achievement for us, but it’s also something we will take in our stride.”
Next up for Armand and his fellow Chiefs is the visit of local rivals Bristol on Saturday, April 8.
It’s a fixture which has huge bearing for both clubs – albeit at opposite ends of the table – and the Harare-born forward knows the importance of delivering a top-class performance next time out.
“It’s an important game for both clubs, so we have to make sure we use the week off to the best of our advantage and that we come out all guns firing,” said the 28-year-old.
“I say it a lot but all games in the Premiership are high level games. Rugby is also that type of game that if you’re on it, you’re on it! It doesn’t matter how other results have been, you have to be aware of them pitching up with a real intensity.
“They have different motivations to us, but at the end of the day both sides want to win. We just have to be aware that we’re switched on and we play at a level that they can’t match.
“As Rob said, we’ve put things in our control and we’re in a wonderful position in that we’re not relying on other results. We want to be in the top two come the end – for obvious reasons – and when it’s like that, it’s a lot easier to control things rather than relying on others.”