Bruce Reihana knows Northampton face a massive challenge against Munster
Bruce Reihana believes the winner of Saturday's mouth-watering Heineken Cup quarter-final between Munster and Northampton will be the team that makes the most of what could be limited opportunities.
The two sides have already met twice in the group stages of this year's competition with the difference between victory and defeat being incredibly narrow on both occasions.
Northampton's 31-27 triumph at Franklin's Gardens in October was followed by a 12-9 win for Munster three months later and Reihana expects the last-eight clash to be equally competitive.
"The games we played against them were very, very hard fought. Neither team got many opportunities," said Reihana, one of the most experienced players in a youthful-looking Saints squad for the trip to Limerick.
"We've been really thorough this time, knowing what we did wrong previously. We have to be very, very sharp about what we do.
"We've got to be very disciplined, particularly in our own half. With his kicking record, Ronan O'Gara can kick them from anywhere.
"In these games you've got to take every opportunity you get because you might only get one or two.
"Big games are all about taking small opportunities."
And when it comes to big games and big challenges, it doesn't get much bigger than facing the double European Champions on their own patch.
Munster have only lost once at their Thomond Park home in European competition, with Northampton's East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers the only side to triumph at the famous stadium in January 2007.
The likes of fellow English powerhouses London Wasps, Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Harlequins have all been well beaten in Limerick at a ground which produces arguably the most vociferous and intimidating atmosphere in world rugby.
Reihana readily admits that playing at Thomond Park presents a unique challenge, one which a number of the Northampton players failed to rise to last time around.
"The first time there, with the noise that was created, the occasion got to a few of the boys," added Reihana, who was an Amlin Challenge Cup winner with Saints last season.
"It's the ferocity of it all - seeing everyone on their feet. They've got so much passion.
"When I was warming up, you could see their faces, screaming at you and showing their true emotion. It's much more than just support - it's almost like they're on the pitch as well.
"I think it's brilliant how much they love their team and support them and I think that' a key part in why Munster are such a great team."
Thomond Park may have got the better of some of the Saints stars in Round 1 but Reihana say he himself the kind of player who revels in such a hostile atmosphere.
Somewhat perversely, he enjoys the sense of being pilloried, taunted and outnumbered on foreign lands, believing that it adds that something special to what would be a memorable encounter regardless.
And if experience has taught Reihana to enjoy the magnitude of such occasions, the former All Black feels that Northampton's first taste of the Munster masses will ensure the squad deal with the pressures far better this time around.
"I didn't find it intimidating myself, being an old fella and having had a few occasions like that. I just used it to spur me on.
"I like to smile with the crowd, to clap them and applaud because without them we're nothing.
"It really excites me when the crowd goes nuts. The best thing is when you don't make a mistake or you bust a tackle, they go quiet.
"We've talked as a team about using that atmosphere to inspire yourself and enthuse yourself - don't be overawed; be excited.
"Learning from that and knowing what's coming, we can be a very different side this time around.
"I'd love to win there. I think that's a special feeling. It's a massive task but it's certainly doable."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.