Dragons fly-half Sam Davies eyes first Welsh URC win in South Africa
Sam Davies says the resurgent Dragons would love to be the first Welsh team to claim a victory out in South Africa in the BKT United Rugby Championship.
The four regions lost all eight games in the Rainbow Nation during last season’s inaugural BKT URC campaign and they now head out there en masse at the end of November for back-to-back fixtures.
For the Dragons, that means matches against the Lions in Johannesburg and the Stormers in Cape Town.
They will make the trip in good spirits having already recorded more league victories in their opening seven matches than they did all last season. Their 47-7 demolition of Zebre at Rodney Parade was their third triumph so far this term, following up home successes against Munster and the Ospreys. So could they break the Welsh duck when they travel to South Africa?
“We are in the best possible place to do so,” declared fly-half Davies. “It is a tough place to go, no Welsh region has gone out there and won yet. We would love to be the first team to do that.
“It’s going to be hard work and we understand that. But, for us, it’s just about making sure we get better week on week. It’s been a good first block, but we can’t rest now. It’s about backing it up. There’s still a large part of the season to go.”
The Dragons’ rise has come under the tutelage of head coach Dai Flanagan who joined from the Scarlets in the summer. “Dai has just given us a bit more freedom,” explained Davies. “He has come in and got his attacking philosophy going with us. He understands what this group needs and that’s what is getting the most out of us at the moment.
“You will see us playing some good rugby, but most of the time it’s in the right areas of the field. Our set-piece is streets ahead of where it was last year and that gives us a foundation to play off and that’s massive in rugby.
“You look at our lineout drive, we are stealing opposition ball, we are getting penalties off our scrum. We are starting to change the perception of referees and that’s credit to our forward pack, giving us the platform to play off. We are also taking our opportunities a lot more now.
“We have got boys stepping up and performing when our internationals are away. There’s depth building here, which is massive for us. It’s a privilege to be part of such a good group.”
For his first three years at the Dragons, after joining fron the Ospreys, Davies was a virtual ever present at No 10, making 60 appearances.
This season, it’s been a bit of a different story. He has had to bide his time, with new recruit JJ Hanrahan and young Will Reed both featuring at fly-half.
Pulling the strings
But, after a start at full-back in the victory over the Ospreys, he was then restored to his accustomed pivotal berth for the meeting with Zebre and responded by landing all nine kicks at goal, as well as pulling the strings to good effect behind.
“You don’t often get nine shots. To get them all over is a real confidence boost,” he said.
“I know I am capable of doing it, but to be able to show it on a game day is good. It’s something I work on in training every day. I’ve just got to make sure I keep nailing them kicks.”
Talking about the competition at 10, he said: “JJ has come in and done really well in the first block. It’s pushed me on to do well when I get my opportunities. It’s only going to benefit the squad. I look forward to sharing the game-time with JJ. At 29 and 30, we can’t play week-in, week-out and I think that’s where we came a bit unstuck last year. Whatever we are needed to do, we will do.”
It’s hard to believe Davies is 29 as it seems like only yesterday he was playing for Wales U20s. It was, in fact, the summer of 2013 when he helped guide Wales to the U20s World Championship final, being named Junior World Player of the Year for his performances at fly-half.
It’s something of a Rodney reunion for that 2013 team right now, with Davies, Rhodri Williams, Jack Dixon, Steff Hughes and Jordan Williams all together again in the Dragons back line, while Elliot Dee and James Benjamin were among the Welsh forwards nine years ago.
Centre Hughes is the latest addition to the squad at the Gwent region, having come on board after being released by the Scarlets, marking his arrival with a couple of tries in recent weeks.
“It’s amazing to get that partnership back with Steff,” said Davies.
“He has done really well coming in from the Scarlets. He has given us another real option in the centre. I am really enjoying playing with him, I am enjoying playing with JJ, I am enjoying playing with Rhodri and Gonzalo (Bertranou). It’s like a breath of fresh air.
“If we can keep backing up the performances, especially at home, then we are going to be in a good place come the end of the season.”
The eight-times capped Davies concluded: “I’m not a youngster anymore and my body is screaming that out from the rooftops. But, at 29, I have still got plenty of years ahead of me. I am here to add experience to the side and offer everything I can and we will see where we go from there.”
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