Stephen Donald says that his transition to Northern Hemisphere rugby has been like learning “a new art”.
The All Black moved to Bath Rugby after kicking the decisive points in the 2011 World Cup final and admits adapting to the style of play in the Premiership has not always been straightforward.
Prior to his Rec switch, Donald had played all his rugby in his native New Zealand and was used to orchestrating sweeping moves for the Chiefs on the firm pitches of the Southern Hemisphere in the Super 15.
Donald has had to adjust his game since then – particularly at the start of this season, when new head coach Gary Gold spelt out exactly what he wanted.
“It’s a different sort of footie and Gary said to me from day one that I was going to have to control the game a lot more with my boot than I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.
“It’s been quite enjoyable learning a new art to rugby, which the Premiership is.
“I think I’m slowly getting used to what it’s about. The sort of football we played against Quins on Friday isn’t the sort of thing you’d play in the Super 15, but it’s quite enjoyable too.”
The win over champions Harlequins was a significant evening for Donald, who kicked all of Bath’s points. He outplayed his fellow Kiwi Nick Evans, a man who by most people’s reckoning – including Donald’s – is the best fly-half in the Premiership of recent seasons.
“I’m just glad about the result,” said Donald. “The boys fronted up big time and it was always going to be one of those days where there weren’t too many tries. I had to kick well and I was fortunate enough to do so.
“I had a chat with Nick before and after the game and it was the first time I’d seen him since I’ve been over here. He’s been the premier five-eight in the Premiership over the past five years, so it was good to come up against him.
“We composed ourselves well against Quins and we got the job done. It was a good confidence-booster which showed the lads we can get the result against this quality opposition.”
One man who felt it was Donald in particular who got the job done against Quins is Bath first-team coach Toby Booth.
“Stephen Donald was outstanding,” said Booth.
“Everyone saw the quality that he can bring from leadership, kicking and distribution points of view. He’s getting better with every week.
“The one thing about him is that he will never shy away from responsibility. He showed his worth to the team and the organisation and that’s been very well-received by fans, coaches and players alike.”
Now Donald wants his side to follow up Friday’s impressive victory with a win on the road against Leicester.
“One win doesn’t make a season,” said the New Zealander.
“The next thing is for us to put two decent performances together. If we do so, then we know we’re making more steps.
“Beating Quins at home is one thing, but beating Leicester away is another.”
Despite early-season results not always going Bath’s way, Donald says he and the rest of the squad have never doubted the direction that Gold has been taking them in since arriving in the summer.
“We’ve had confidence in where we’ve been heading the whole time,” he said.
“The results are the stuff that the public looks at, but I guess we’ve always felt we were on the right track.”