Belfast Telegraph

South Africa trip will tee Munster up for Racing test, says James Hart

Old friends: James Hart faces his former side next week
Old friends: James Hart faces his former side next week

By John Fallon

Scrum-half James Hart believes Munster's two-match tour to South Africa is the perfect way to build up for the Champions Cup showdown with his former club Racing 92 on Sunday-week.

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The 26-year-old made 19 appearances for Racing last season before joining Munster on a two-year deal last summer.

He started in the 39-22 win over the Southern Kings in George on Saturday evening and is hoping to clock up more time when Munster face the Cheetahs tomorrow night in Bloemfontein.

"The Kings have struggled this year although the game was physical enough on Saturday but I think the Cheetahs have shown the quality side that they are," he said.

"They have been tough to beat over here, only Glasgow have managed that so far.

"I have never played at altitude so I am looking forward to seeing how the lungs go. I know it will be tough but we are a very well-conditioned side and our preparations out here have gone very well so hopefully there will be no issue for us.

"The weather out here will also help us prepare for Racing in Bordeaux. It was warm on Saturday night, the ball was a little bit slippy and it's probably going to be like that in Bordeaux.

"The whole tour has been fantastic and to get two weeks together has been great for the squad."

Hart made his Champions Cup debut for Munster off the bench in the dramatic win over Toulon and he said a key part of his decision to come back to Ireland was the lure of such occasions, explaining: "Of course, you come back to Ireland to be involved in big games. I had the chance last year with Racing to get to the semi-final stage of the Top 14 and this tour is a kind of reminder.

"We were doing camps in the south of France and then played the semi-final in Marseille. All those big games are so exciting to play in, there is that extra energy around.

"I haven't played against Racing this year but hopefully I could be in the squad for the semi-final and it will be great to play against those lads. I'm very friendly with them, I know them well and I chat a lot to them."

The squad are based in Cape Town this week before heading up to Bloemfontein today and Hart said the players have really enjoyed the experience in South Africa.

"This is my first time in South Africa," he added. "I always wanted to come. The scenery is really amazing. I am a bit of a shark fanatic and we were hoping to go shark diving but it wasn't possible. But it's a great tour and the guys are enjoying it."

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