Wales and Ospreys lock Adam Beard says the powerhouse South African teams make the Vodacom United Rugby Championship unpredictable and highly competitive.
“With the South Africans coming in, it’s brought a bit more spice and physicality and a different challenge,” said the 26-year-old.
“There are no easy games these days. Where maybe a few years back you could say you were guaranteed to go out and win, it’s not like that any more. No chance. There are no easy games and it’s good for rugby and good for the competition and good for promoting it.”
Beard’s Ospreys have won one, drawn two and lost two in their five matches to date, with a trip to Rodney Parade to take on the Dragons their next assignment this coming Sunday.
The 38-cap lock has a big November ahead of him as he is among the front-runners to skipper Wales in the absence of the injured Dan Biggar.
He was vice-captain to flyhalf Biggar last season and is now among the leading contenders to take the helm along with the hugely experienced trio of Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.
But first he will be looking to put in a big display in the Welsh derby clash with the Dragons as the Ospreys set their sights on a second win of the season in what he views as a highly competitive URC.
Reflecting on the season so far, Beard admitted there had been some frustrations with victories slipping from their grasp.
“It’s been a bit up and down. If we are being totally honest, we should have won three of the first four,” said Beard.
“We had a tough derby to start the year against the Scarlets. Looking back at that game, we were really dominant in the first half. We put a lot of pressure on them and probably should have got more points.
“We took our foot off the gas in the second half and let them back into the game, so that’s probably one we let slip away. I suppose sometimes in a derby like that away from home you take the draw, take the two points.
“But then we were very disappointed with the second game at home to the [Emirates] Lions. We got the four tries, the bonus point, but then gifted them a couple of easy tries. It’s definitely a game we felt we should have won.
“Then going on to Glasgow, that was the performance we were looking for. They are a top side, so to put in a display like that against them put a good statement down for us.
“It was a little bit disappointing out in Belfast, but there were a lot of changes and a bit of illness in camp, which is obviously not great for preparation and Ulster is a tough place to go.”
Reinforced by the return of the likes of Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, George North, Tomas Francis, Jac Morgan, Dan Lydiate and Stephen Myler, the Ospreys bounced back with a much-improved display last weekend as they held reigning champions the DHL Stormers to a 16-16 draw in torrential rain.
“It’s always a tough challenge against any South African team, but we like to back ourselves at home and it’s all about bringing energy and accuracy,” said Beard.
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