The South African franchises have been struggling in the opening two rounds of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, but round three offers them different challenges. Here’s what to expect from their opposition this weekend.
Where and when: Swansea Stadium, Friday, 8:35pm
Coach: Toby Booth
Captain: Justin Tipuric
Swansea has been a place where South African players have traditionally enjoyed playing, with the Springboks bagging a massive 78-7 win on their 1994 tour there and, most recently, with both the Cheetahs and Southern Kings winning their last games there in November 2019.
But this year has been a different start for Toby Booth’s side, as they kicked off their campaign with two derby wins over the Dragons and Cardiff and are on a high right now.
The Sharks showed flashes of form against Glasgow this past weekend but have another tough encounter coming up, especially as Ospreys will be looking for a South African scalp.
Local fans will remember former Western Province, Cheetahs and Kings prop Tom Botha from his days in South Africa, while the Ospreys also boast the likes of British & Irish Lions captain Alun-Wyn Jones and George North on their books.
New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe put his Welsh national teams on notice last week with a match-winning performance after returning from two years out of the game. The Ospreys are likely to be without Michael Collins and Bradley Davies but could see the return of Wyn Jones if selected.
Facing: The Glasgow Warriors
Where and when: Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow, Saturday, 4:05pm
Coach: Danny Wilson
Captain: Fraser Brown
The Lions will be the second South African team to face European opposition on a 4G pitch after the Sharks struggled over the past weekend, and have never faced Scottish opposition before.
Glasgow will head into the game confident as they have won their last five games on the pitch and have won seven games on the trot against South African opposition at home, with their only losses, in the competition’s former incarnation as the PRO14, being in South Africa.
They have suffered only one defeat in their last six matches across the Rainbow Cup and URC and showed this past weekend against the Sharks that they have the offload game and pace to match any team in the competition.
With South African-born star Kyle Steyn leading the way, they are formidable opposition for any other side in the competition.
Where and when: DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh, Saturday, 6:15pm
Coach: Mike Blair
Captains: Grant Gilchrist, Stuart McInally
Edinburgh’s run under new coach Mike Blair received a heartbreaking setback this past weekend as Benetton pipped them with a last-minute penalty to win a tense fixture in Treviso.
Now back at home in front of their own fans at their new stadium, which was opened this year, Edinburgh will be looking for a lot better form after winning only one of their last six matches across the URC and Rainbow Cup.
They have won their only fixture at the new stadium, closely beating Scarlets and are a team in search of redemption. But they will take heart from the fact they have played seven games against South African opposition and have not lost to them in Edinburgh, with their two losses coming on the road.
Edinburgh are also a home away from home for a bunch of South African players in Europe, with former Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman a regular fixture and other familiar names including former Cheetahs props Boan Venter and Luan de Bruin, who join SA-born Scotland international WP Nel in Edinburgh’s front-row ranks.
At the back, Duhan van der Merwe left them at the end of last season but the South Africans in their contingent include Henry Immelmann, Scotland international Jaco van der Walt and youngster Jordan Venter.
Local fans will also remember the name of B&I Lions flank Hamish Watson, who plays for the club.
The Vodacom Bulls
Facing: The Cardiff Blues
Where and when: Arms Park, Cardiff, Saturday, 8:35pm
Coach: Dai Young
Captain: Josh Turnbull
Cardiff will welcome the Bulls off the back of a winning home-record of four matches at the Arms Park as they look to re-establish themselves as one of the top contenders in the URC. The club that once counted All Blacks great Jonah Lomu in its playing ranks, albeit when Lomu’s top days as a player were almost over, was the first stop for the Springboks on their 1994 tour, with the Boks winning 11-6.
The club boasts two B&I Lions players in Josh Navidi and Josh Adams – the latter being the top try-scorer on the recent tour of South Africa. Adams will be playing this weekend for his club for the first time since 2019.
Cardiff are another club that have never lost at home to South African opposition, although they have tasted defeat on tour in South Africa, and will provide a tough challenge for the Bulls side. Cardiff’s Owen Lane is the competition’s joint-top try-scorer with three from the opening two matches, sitting alongside Benetton’s Gianmarco Lucchesi and Nick Timoney of Ulster.
Top Team Performances
Carries: 280 Glasgow Warriors
Clean Breaks: 13 Cardiff, Connacht, Edinburgh
Defenders Beaten: 44 Connacht, Leinster
Kicks in Play: 75 Dragons
Lineouts Won: 32 Leinster
Metres: 1,066 Leinster
Passes: 329 Cardiff
Tackles: 284 Ulster
Turnovers Won: 17 Edinburgh
Top Players from Round 2
Carries: 18 Sione Kalamafoni (Scarlets)
Defenders Beaten: 10 Mack Hansen (Connacht)
Lineouts Won: 9 Ross Molony (Leinster)
Metres: 133 EW Viljoen (Lions)
Passes: 80 Kieran Marmion (Rugby)
Tackles: 21 Marcell Coetzee (Bulls)
Top Players after two rounds
Carries: 34 Jack Dempsey (Warriors), Sione Kalamafoni (Scarlets)
Clean Breaks: 5 Owen Lane (Cardiff), Steff Evens (Scarlets)
Defenders Beaten: 15 Mack Hansen (Connacht)
Kicks in Play: 32 Sam Davies (Dragons)
Lineout Steals: 3 James Ryan (Leinster), Richie Gray (Warriors)
Lineouts Won: 16 Niccolo Cannone (Benetton)
Metres: 193 Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets)
Passes: 130 Kieran Marmion (Connacht)
Tackles: 38 Marcell Coetzee (Bulls)
Turnovers Won: 5 Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh).
Photo: Getty Images