Ospreys v Edinburgh: Steve Tandy rallies his depleted troops as he sets sights on downing Gunners
STEVE Tandy refuses to reveal what points total he believes the Ospreys need to secure a play-off place — but admits they now have little margin for error.
Defeat in Connacht last weekend saw the Liberty region tumble out of the top four of the RaboDirect Pro 12 with just seven games of the season remaining.
That has piled more pressure on tonight's home clash with Edinburgh as Tandy's men fight to remain in the running to defend their title.
The 22-10 reverse at the Sportsground was only the Ospreys' second in 12 matches and followed a superb victory in Ulster the previous Friday.
But the Pro12 top six have been so consistent this season that any stumble tends to be punished.
The Ospreys trail the fourth-placed Scarlets by three points and cannot afford to lose any more ground this evening.
"Our fate's in our own hands if we win the majority of our games which we are capable of doing," said Tandy.
"We went on a great run at the end of last season and won seven on the bounce which is probably something we may need to do again.
"We can't afford too many slip-ups. There's not a lot of margin for error, but we believe in ourselves.
"I don't think we're under pressure. We're capable of performances.
"We need to get something out of Edinburgh and Munster, then the cavalry arrives."
The Ospreys will again have to dig deep into their reserves this evening as they remain without a host of players on Wales Six Nations duty.
To compound his problems, Tandy has had to cope with a mounting injury list, while Joe Bearman and Ross Jones have been hit with bans.
Bearman will miss the next four weeks, while Jones is banned for three after being cited for offences against Connacht.
This weekend will come too soon for the likes of Andrew Bishop, Ian Gough and Ben John, but Ashley Beck could return from an ankle problem.
Scrum-half Tom Habberfield has been forced into playing on the wing in recent weeks, while Kahn Fotuali'i will skipper the side from out wide.
"Even with the 20-plus injuries and call-ups, we're still really happy with the group we've got," said Tandy.
"These young guys are learning and, in fairness to them, there are going to be some blips along the way.
"But in general they're a fantastic group. With all the injuries and international call-ups, they always seem to find a way.
"If we go back to Ulster they put in an amazing performance, but unfortunately didn't back it up.
"I felt we got a little bit ahead of ourselves.
"It was disappointing not to make the most of that by picking up at least a bonus point against Connacht, but this game is a must-win for us to really put in a performance and get some points on the board."
That defeat was a blow as it came after a remarkable win at Ravenhill where the Ospreys inflicted on Ulster only their second league defeat of the season.
They return to the Liberty for the first time since mid-January for one of only three remaining games on home soil.
Those fixtures in SA1 have now become especially crucial in the race for the play-offs.
Edinburgh recorded a shock 23-13 victory at Murrayfield in November. The Ospreys will be looking to avenge that defeat, but should need no extra motivation with the season nearing crunch time.
"It's hard to be too critical after we got a performance in Ulster like we did," said Tandy.
"We need a positive performance and we need everyone to get behind us.
"We've got to take it game by game. We've got a fair idea of the number of points we'll need to get in the play-offs.
"But the team is changing. We've lost four from last week, Alun Wyn (Jones), Ben John and two citings so we can't compartmentalise. We've just got to get on with it, take some points and hopefully take it to Munster.
"We're playing boys out of position and we seem to be picking up a lot of bumps, but it's something we've got to get on with. We pride ourselves on our age-grade system."
One plus point for Tandy is the return of Beck, who is likely to be introduced from the bench at some point this evening.
He has been missing since December with an ankle complaint. But the centre may yet be called up by Wales if he proves his fitness tonight.
"He looks pretty sharp so there'll definitely be some rugby for him on Friday night," added Tandy.
"He can't wait to get up and running and it's great to have him back with us.
"We've only lost two in the last 12 so we're in good form, we just need to take that into the Edinburgh game."
After Edinburgh, the Ospreys play Munster before also facing the Blues and Leinster in the home straight.
"No-one's defended the title and we just want to stay in the mix," added Tandy.
"We're going to fight until the last game, until mathematically we can't get into those play-off spots.
"We're confident in this group, we are capable of going six or seven games on the bounce.
"That's what we need to do because, looking at other sides' run-ins, they look decent. We have got to go away from home.
"But I'm pretty confident if we do have to go to Glasgow and Leinster.
"We've done it before, we can win again."