SUMMER recruit Callum Gibbins did a bit of globetrotting just to become a Glasgow Warrior. Those travels continued this week as he and the Glasgow squad headed for South Africa in preparation for tonight’s PRO14 clash against the Cheetahs at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein.

Gibbins – who took time out from training yesterday to collect his McCrea Financial Services “Warrior of the Month” award for September from coach Dave Rennie – is no stranger to rugby in the South Africa.
But even he is excited by the prospect of this appearance with Glasgow in their first away day to the Cape.

“I’ve been here a few times with the Hurricanes over the years and it has always been great place to play – they love their rugby here as much as they do in New Zealand,” said the 29-year-old flanker.

“The most difficult thing to overcome here is the altitude. Well, that and the fact the Cheetahs are a pretty good outfit, who have backs who like to carry the ball and a back row who like to play at pace.

“In all fairness, the faster the game, the more it suits me – but I think that applies to our game in general. Slow ball doesn’t really suit the coach or the team. So it should be a good contest.”

Gibbins, who prior to the Hurricanes had been a regular with Manawatu Turbos, has been impressive since arriving a few months ago, playing his part in what has been a great start to the PRO14 campaign for the Warriors.

“We’ve started out with five straight wins, some of those earned the hard way,” he said. “But that record this far doesn’t really count for anything. This is a completely different game to anything we’ve faced up to this point. But the intentions are to do the same as we have been over the opening weeks – get the job done and get the win.”

Gibbins is entirely deserving of the player of the month award, and admits that he has settled into his new surroundings quicker than he had expected.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming to the northern hemisphere, to play in the UK and Europe. I have been impressed, but I’ve also been impressed by the way I’ve been accepted in to the squad, and by the Warriors support which is fantastic.

“There hasn’t really been any kind of transition for me. I’ve just turned up, started playing, and started winning – that easy,” he laughed.

And he has shared a few of those laughs in the 24 hours after his player of the month title.

“Yes, one or two of the guys have said that these awards should go to the locals first and us incomers should wait our turn.  Let’s just say I jumped the queue,” Gibbins laughed. 

“I’ve been trying to look a bit embarrassed by it all. It was a bit of a surprise – a welcome one I have to say.”

Something else that has caused a bit of hilarity within the Glasgow ranks was the bizarre incident last week when Welsh international Scott Baldwin was bitten while trying to stroke a lion ahead of the Ospreys match with the Cheetahs.

“These big cats can’t be trusted. Anyway, tackling the Cheetahs is hard enough without taking on lions as well,” Gibbins joked.

His dynamism has certainly been a key element in the way Warriors have kicked off this season, with wins over Connacht, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Munster and last weekend by 37-21 against Benetton Treviso.

Gibbins will be joined in the Warriors pack tonight by Jonny Gray who returns from injury. Following last weekend’s victory over Benetton, both Gray and Fraser Brown are back in the starting XV having recovered from a wrist and an ankle injury respectively, while Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson both return to join Brown in the front row while Tim Swinson partners Gray in the second-row. 

Captain Ryan Wilson once again starts on the blind-side and Adam Ashe and Callum Gibbins both come back into the team at No.8 and open-side.