McKay playing for lost friend Garden-Bachop

rugby20 June 2024 14:01| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Josh McKay © Getty Images

When Glasgow Warriors fullback Josh McKay takes the field on Saturday for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final against the Vodacom Bulls, he won’t just be playing for his side, but also for the memory of a close friend who passed away this past week.

New Zealand rugby was shocked by the loss of Conor Garden-Bachop, the Highlanders player that passed away suddenly this week and McKay, who knew him well, said he would be dedicating the game to his former teammate.

“Connor and I went to Lincoln University together, we played for Canterbury together and played for the Highlanders together,” said McKay. “It’s just so deeply saddening. He was all-round one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. He would light up every room so he’s a huge loss. It’s pretty hard to put it into words at the moment.”

McKay hardly needs any motivation for the final, but knows his performance can go a long way to getting his side over the line and causing an upset in front of a partisan Bulls crowd on Saturday.

And he is keen to get out there and play.

“The Bulls are a really good team and this is a really good challenge for us,” said McKay.

“Growing up in New Zealand as a young kid, watching all the big games in Super Rugby, the Bulls have always been a great team. To be a part of this is pretty special.”

McKay has had a sensational season with Glasgow, playing 21 games and scoring seven tries, while featuring highly on the competition stats all season.

Voted Player of the year at Glasgow by supporters, he certainly comes into the game boasting form that any player would dream of.


He ranks second highest in the URC for defenders beaten (49), metres gained (1073) and carries made (191). He has the fifth highest number of offloads (21).

“To be injury-free and fit for selection every week is where we want to be physically as rugby players,” he said.

“In my first couple of years I still managed to play a decent amount of games but I had to have a couple of surgeries. Last year was a season-ender to my foot and the season before was to my ankle.

“My body has been in a good spot all season and when you’re playing consistently it helps your confidence and you can grow as a player on the field and you can build combinations. It’s been an awesome season with the Warriors and I’m absolutely loving life in Scotland in Glasgow.”

McKay also shrugged off the concerns of travelling within a week to altitude for the final, comparing it to the days he played for the Highlanders.

“My take on it is that when we were travelling for Super Rugby from New Zealand it took long to get here, one of the difficult things was the heat factor – it’s usually hotter in South Africa,” he said.

“Then you’ve got the altitude factor, but you’ve also got the time difference. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s nine, ten, 11 hours time difference between New Zealand and South Africa which is probably almost the hardest thing to adjust to, because it would mean on a game day you’re waking up at 4am and you’re not playing till maybe 4pm or 6pm.

“Whereas here I woke up at half-eight, it’s a normal routine, there’s only an hour time difference. So you’ve got your normal sleep hours, your routine stays the same: that’s probably one of the biggest differences I’ve seen between travelling from Europe versus travelling from New Zealand.

“Wherever you go, you want to be playing in big games and finals,” he added. “It’s really awesome to still be able to do these trips to South Africa. You grow up getting up at three in the morning to watch the Crusaders play the Bulls and the likes. So it’s absolutely vindication of my move and I’m just really excited to have a good week and put in a performance we can be proud of.

“I’m just really looking forward to the challenge ahead. Yes, I’m not wearing a Crusaders jersey but it’s awesome wearing the Warriors jersey playing in an awesome stadium against awesome opposition.”