Patience pays off for Horwitz

David Horwitz on the charge for Connacht in their 22-10 win against Perpignan in Galway on December 8. Photo: Connacht Rugby Club

PATIENCE is a virtue, and for former Super Rugby player David Horwitz, it’s beginning to reap rewards on the European rugby stage with rising Irish province Connacht.

The 24-year-old Sydney native – who played 27 games for the NSW Waratahs in 2016 and 2017 – signed with the Galway-based Pro 14 club in August to kickstart his career after a short, unproductive stint in a strengthened Melbourne Rebels squad, when he was not selected to play.

The talented outside centre, fly-half and goalkicker had a tough start in Ireland – a rugby nation ranked second only to the All Blacks in the world rankings – training the house down, but again being overlooked for a start in the opening seven rounds of the Pro 14 by Connacht head coach Andy Friend.

But an opportunity was all Horwitz needed, and he got it when subbed on in a round 8 Pro 14 game in early November, kicking three penalty goals in Connacht’s 33-12 win over Welsh team the Dragons.

Since then, he got valuable match time at fly-half in a mini-tour of South Africa, kicking the final goal in his club’s bonus-point win against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, and kicking two vital penalty goals when subbed on for Jack Carty to seal a 21-17 victory against the Cheetahs in the scorching Bloemfontein heat.

Horwitz training in Cape Town during Connacht’s recent mini tour of South Africa. Photo: Connacht Rugby

That led to coach Friend selecting Horwitz to start as fly-half in a new halves combination with James Mitchell in savagely cold and stormy conditions in Galway on December 8, where he played for 55 minutes and made several scything runs and kicked two goals in a hard-fought Euro Challenge Cup home game victory over Perpignan, whom they are due to play in a return fixture in France this weekend.

Hot water bottles were required for the players at half-time and the Irish Times described the driving rain, gale force winds and periodic hail as “hostile conditions rarely seen at any outdoor sports event”, prompting Friend to say after the match “the win was a real compliment to the players . . . a lot of players had to step up – and I told them don’t underestimate the strength of that win”.

“You only have a quality side when you have depth within the squad, and we’re starting to build that . . . and winning becomes a habit.”

Connacht have now won four straight games and find themselves coming second in their European Challenge Cup group and third in their conference in the Pro 14 – a competition featuring clubs from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy and South Africa.

At the beginning of the season, Horwitz was in awe of the passion of rugby fans in Galway.

And he was amazed to see the Galway Sportsground’s stands 85 per cent full in such horrific weather conditions in the win over Perpignan, and the noise they generated at full-time.

“It’s unlike anything I have ever experienced,” Horwitz said.

SHANE DESIATNIK

David Horwitz kicks a penalty goal in Connacht’s victory over the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo: Connacht Rugby Club/PA Images