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Super-sub Steve Osborne is still a key player for 'Stoke
FRONT-ROW forward Steve Osborne admits that there have been times when he has wanted to sulk about his lack of a regular starting spot.
The 24-year-old has played in the vast majority of Basingstoke’s games so far this season – but most, if not all, of his appearances have come from the replacements’ bench.
The ’Stoke coaches have been using the new rolling replacements system to fine effect, freshening up the side on a regular basis throughout games and, in many ways, Osborne has been the victim of this.
As a player capable of filling in right across the front row, Osborne is useful to have in reserve, allowing the coaches to replace whichever starter they feel needs a rest.
This role has become crucial to the success of the team, with Osborne playing around 60 minutes most weeks, but he admits that there have been times when this super-sub role has become frustrating.
“There have been times when I’ve wanted to sulk about it,” he said. “A few times I have thought I had a good game and might get the shirt, but I know that I will get game-time so I’m not too fussed.
“Everyone wants to start. I just have to play as best I can when I get the chance and try to force my way into the team but I’m really enjoying my rugby.
“I think we are working the replacements system the best of any side in the league. The coaches really seem to get it right, in that whenever they make a change, it makes a real difference.”
The Basingstoke coaches have really put their trust in Osborne, who was very much a loose-head prop when he arrived at the club from Alton two years ago.
He has worked hard at his game and is now able to fill in across the front row, including the very specialised role of hooker, where he has had to get to grips with lineout throwing.
“Playing at hooker has been interesting,” Osborne said. “The first time I played there it felt very unusual and awkward but I have talked to the other hookers and they have helped me with my technique and lineout throwing.
“It was a bit touch and go at the beginning of the season but I seem to be getting there now. It’s always fun and exciting to play in different positions.”
It’s been a good season all-round for Basingstoke, who are determined to chase down Chichester and grab second place and the London One South play-off spot.
Osborne said: “We are doing pretty well and I think it will go right to the wire. We just have to hope somebody puts in a good performance against Chichester.
“The bonus point system is going to play a big part. There have been a couple of games where teams have managed to slow us down and stop us getting the bonus point but, if we keep winning, we might be ahead going into the last game, which would be great.
“With us, it’s always a case of making sure that we come out firing in the first 20 minutes. “Sometimes we do not show up in the first 20 and then we have to chase back.
“If we are on our game in the first 20 minutes and put on a couple of scores then we seem to go on – and that’s what we have to do for the rest of the season.”
Next up for ’Stoke is a trip to Beckenham on Saturday and while Basingstoke claimed a comfortable win last time the sides met, Osborne insists that he and his teammates cannot afford to be complacent.
“We did smash them last time we played them but we try to treat every game the same, no matter who is in front of us,” he said. “We will play like we are up against Chichester or East Grinstead and will be looking to get four tries and the bonus point.”