Pete Wilkins said the two-game tour of South Africa is a "perfect scenario" for Connacht as they look to regroup following their opening-round mauling by Ulster.

Connacht flew out on Monday ahead of their meeting with defending champions the DHL Stormers on Saturday, live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, boosted by the return of Ireland internationals Bundee Aki, Finlay Bealham and Mack Hansen.

The team remained in Belfast following the 36-10 loss at Kingspan Stadium before travelling down to Dublin on Sunday, and head coach Wilkins has already seen the benefits of that extra time spent together in camp.

He said: "If we go away to Ulster we're often playing on a Friday night, getting on a bus immediately from changing rooms and driving through the night back to Galway and not seeing each other or getting in front of the players for 48 hours until Monday morning.

"For us to go back to the hotel in Belfast, already start some of those conversations, and then travel down to Dublin meant we had a good team briefing yesterday [Sunday].

"The players did some work in their smaller groups in terms of sharing ideas and challenging each other about some of those performance aspects.

"Now we’re off to spend two weeks together in very close proximity with two really exciting games. It couldn’t be better in terms of the template we’ve got in responding and reacting to a performance like that.

"It’s now on us to grab that and we’ve got to make the most of it."

Gavin Thornbury (right) has not travelled to South Africa due to a knee sprain

Emerging Ireland quartet Caolin Blade, Sam Illo, Cian Prendergast and Dylan Tierney-Martin have been included in Connacht's 28-man squad but will link up with Simon Easterby's development side after the Stormers game.

Captain Jack Carty and Gavin Thornbury, who stepped in as skipper against Ulster, have not travelled due to injury while Conor Oliver misses out due to illness. However, the trio could yet travel out ahead of the game against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on 30 September.



Wilkins said there was no "alarm" in the Connacht camp after the below-par showing against Ulster but admitted their discipline requires drastic improvement.

"We were in the fight for half of the game, albeit with less possession and territory, but we didn't apply pressure when we got those opportunities in the attacking half," he said.

"That's an important lesson for us to learn moving forward. Certainly six penalties conceded in the ten minutes after half-time, for me that was where the game was won and lost.

"There's key lessons there but certainly nothing that has spooked us. There are things we've identified that we have to do better."

Connacht won on South African soil last season, beating the Lions at Ellis Park

Connacht made history last April when they defeated the Lions at Ellis Park, becoming the first Irish province to win on South African soil against the new recruits from Super Rugby. Wilkins also toured South Africa during his eight years with the Queensland Reds and is pleased to be making the latest trip early in the season.

"From my time in Super Rugby, we were always envious of the teams that were able to do that on South African tours at the start of the season," he said.

"Culturally and off-field it really gives you a chance to bond the group, but also it's a chance to go with fresh bodies. You're coming off the back of pre-season and then just the one [competitive] game for us.

"You're not going at the end of a long season like last time where sometimes it can be tough physically and emotionally to get up for that.

"For us it's the perfect time. The Ulster result adds to that in terms of being able to build together and regroup. We're looking forward to it."

Caolin Blade is tackled by Damian Willemse during Connacht's win over the Stormers last season

Connacht won three of their four matches against South African sides last season, including a 19-17 success over the Stormers in Galway last February.

The Stormers will be without the majority of their Springboks for the latest meeting, which takes place in the 16,000-capacity Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch as Cape Town Stadium was unavailable due to a now-cancelled Justin Bieber concert.

"It's a great venue for it," said Wilkins. "I've not been to a competitive game there before but I have been to the area. It's fantastic for us to get the chance to play there.

"The Stormers will obviously bring massive physicality, as all the South Africans do. They're a good attacking and defensive team but we've identified a couple of opportunities to go after them, and things that suit our style of play. We think we can get some access points into the game.

"I think it'll be an exciting game, two teams that have pretty exciting backlines, and the battle up front will earn the right for whoever gets to fire those shots."

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Watch live coverage of Stormers v Connacht (24 September) and Dragons v Munster (25 September) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.