The Vodacom Bulls are wary of wounded Welsh rugby as they prepare for back-to-back Vodacom United Rugby Championship matches against the Ospreys and Cardiff.
Last weekend saw the Wales national team go down to a first defeat to Georgia as the hosts were beaten 13-12 in a huge shock at the Principality Stadium.
That’s the backdrop against which the country’s four pro sides have headed out on tour to South Africa, where none of them have yet recorded a victory in the URC.
But Bulls forwards coach Russell Winter believes that will actually make the Welsh teams all the more desperate to provide a much-needed morale boost.
“We played in Wales last year and it’s one of the proudest rugby nations in the world. They are hurting and that’s something you’ve got to take seriously, when teams and players of their standards go through these scenarios,” he said.
“They are too good a rugby nation to not want to play well and come back from where they are at the moment. We know when these guys click they can play. We are looking forward to the sides that are coming.”
Looking specifically at the Ospreys, who are the visitors to Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, Winter said: “They have had some of the best players in the world playing in their side over the years.
“Alun Wyn Jones still has an influence on that team in the way he plays, alongside the coaches. They have got really good pedigree and players and history, so they could click at any time and we don’t want to take it for granted.
“They are a difficult team to beat. They drew with the Stormers. They are well coached, they come from a really proud club that want to do well in all competitions. If you take them lightly, you could definitely get burned very quickly.
“This is a side that can play and if they put it together on the day they can play some really exciting rugby. They have scored some really nice tries in this competition so far.
“We will have to make sure that we can perform well on Saturday.”
This will be the Bulls’ first game since they claimed a 40-27 bonus point victory over the Cell C Sharks on 30 October, when they ran in four tries and flyhalf Chris Smith landed eight shots at goal to strengthen his position as the leading points scorer in the league.
That was their fifth win from seven URC matches leaving them third in the table behind Irish pair Leinster and Ulster.
Reflecting on returning to action after a four week break, Winter said: “It’s been good to be back up and running. We are nice and refreshed and ready to go.
“We are very happy where we are. Hopefully, there is not too much rust and we can get a rhythm, chemistry and cohesion going nice and early.”
The Bulls welcome back No 8 Elrigh Louw, lock Ruan Nortje and props Simphiwe Matanzima and Mornay Smith following their return from the South Africa ‘A’ tour to the UK.
Blindside flank Cyle Brink is also back from a serious hamstring injury, while Springbok loose forward Nizaam Carr has just rejoined the Bulls from Wasps following the English Premiership club going into administration.
Loose forward Marco van Staden, plus wings Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie, remain unavailable as they are in the match-day 23 for the Springboks’ showdown with England at Twickenham this weekend, while flyhalf Johan Goosen is part of the bigger squad in London and captain Marcell Coetzee is on a sabbatical in Japan.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) November 24, 2022
Photo: Inpho Photography