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URC Round Six preview: Chaos comes to Cardiff

24 Nov 2023 11 minute read
Tinus de Beer of Cardiff Rugby kicks from hand. Photo ©INPHO/Andy Watts

Simon Thomas

Cardiff Rugby v DHL Stormers, Friday 7.35pm

Cardiff’s South African fly-half Tinus de Beer is well aware of the threat posed by the Stormers and sums it up in one word – chaos.

“I played with a few of them, like Warrick Gelant, who was at the Bulls when I was there, and Willie Engelbrecht, who was my captain at the Pumas, a good guy,” says the man from Pretoria.

“They have got big forwards and fast, elusive backs. They rely on quite a lot of chaos in their game. They score tries off the bounce.

“Their game is all about the transition and they have got some backs that can really spark that up.

“Then when it’s time to get down and dirty, the forwards can provide that as well. It’s a good mixture.”

De Beer added: “The Stormers thrive on chaos, so we need to take that out of them and keep it as structured as we can.

“We can’t give them those loose balls. If we concede turnovers, they will be happy with that. So we need to keep the errors low and stay in structure.”

The Stormers arrive at the Arms Park having suffered three successive defeats on the road, away to Glasgow, Benetton and Munster.

“All the South African teams find it difficult touring,” said De Beer.

“Maybe it’s the cold, maybe it’s the wind, maybe they are missing their family and the people back home.

“The Stormers will be coming out wanting to prove a point. They will want to win the game and head back home with all smiles.

“They will be bang up for it, but we need to target it as a home game as well. Every match we have played so far this season has been close and we are really pushing to get that win. It would be good for the fans and for us as a team.”

As for the view from the visiting camp, Stormers coach John Dobson says: “Cardiff have got real line-speed and a nice attacking set-up, while we know they are a threat on the ground. They look exciting and dangerous.

“We need the win. It’s very important for us. If we can win – which is a big if – we will go home with a 50 per cent record so far this season, three from six, but we will have played five away games. So we will be really well positioned.”

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Dragons RFC, Saturday 5.05pm

Having lost their opening five URC matches, the Sharks were in need of a boost and it’s been provided by the return of their World Cup-winning Springboks.

Second row Eben Etzebeth, wing Makazole Mapimpi and scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse start against the Dragons, while Ox Nche and Grant Williams are in waiting on the bench.

While the Durban outfit are bottom of the table, in full-back Aphelele Fassi they have a player who is flying high in the individual charts.

The man from the Eastern Cape is way out in front when it comes to metres made and has been directly involved in 10 line breaks, making six himself and assisting a further four, the most by any player.

So a warning there to the Dragons, who show four changes from the side that beat the Ospreys, including a start for Wales squad scrum-half Dane Blacker.

Their coach Dai Flanagan said: “We’ve got to play with ambition. We know we’ve got to score tries out in South Africa to win games.”

Ospreys v Scarlets, Sunday 3pm

For these two teams, there’s no game quite like it.

It’s the west Wales derby and it means a huge amount, as long-serving Ospreys prop Nicky Smith confirms.

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the fixture we looked forward to the most in the season,” he said.

“It’s exciting. All the boys are buzzing around the place and really looking forward for Sunday to come.

“There’s that little bit of extra spice to it. It’s bragging rights and personal battles with your opposite number. Put all that together and it’s hopefully a recipe for a cracking game.

“They are going to be raring to go and we are excited for the challenge.”

Scarlets coach Dwayne Peel (Credit: Inpho Photography)

The Scarlets haven’t won in Swansea since 2017 and coach Dwayne Peel recognises how much his team’s fans would love to see that barren run come to an end.

“It’s a game that always means a lot to our supporters,” said the former Wales scrum-half.

“There’s a lot at stake. It’s a big day in the calendar, I loved it as a player.

“The first thing you speak about is the rivalry when you look back at the past games. We haven’t won in Swansea for a while, so that’s a big challenge for us.

“The Ospreys are a tough team to beat. Their forward pack can be really abrasive. They have always been a combative side and that’s the challenge we have to rise to. We have our own style, they have their style, so it will be good. Derbies tend to throw up different emotions, different styles of play.

“We are under no illusions. To go there and win, we are going to have to be very good.

“We seem to have all our Welsh derbies close together at the moment. We have Cardiff again next week, having played them a couple of weeks back.

“You can really steal a march in these next couple of weeks in terms of being the best Welsh team and that’s what we want to be.”

Wales captain Jac Morgan makes his first start of the season in the Ospreys back row as he lines up against his former team.

Peel said: “Jac is obviously very well known here. I think his game is getting better and better. He has been outstanding and he’s obviously got leadership qualities.”

The Scarlets have half-backs Gareth Davies and Ioan Lloyd on board once more, while Tongan international Vaea Fifita also returns on the flank.

Remaining games

Edinburgh Rugby v Benetton Rugby, Friday 7.35pm

Recruiting Ben Healy from Munster is already looking like one of the signings of the season by Edinburgh.

The Irish international fly-half is the leading points scorer in the URC by some distance after the opening five rounds, with his tally of 57 points putting him 14 ahead of the next best.

He is likely to be a key figure once again as the Scottish side aim to claim their fifth win of the campaign.

“We’re off to a good start,” said the 24-year-old.

“It’s a good sign of a team when you’re winning tight games. I wouldn’t say there’s any we didn’t deserve to win, but most of them have been nip and tuck.

“There’s good leaders in the group and I’ve been really impressed by the mental resolve. There’s a resilience in the team.

“The number one thing is I want to win trophies. I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think we could win every competition we enter.”

Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie will make his 100th appearance for Edinburgh as he packs down on the blindside flank at Hive Stadium, while international centre Malakai Fekitoa returns for Benetton.

Emirates Lions v Zebre Parma Saturday 12.55pm

The Lions are back on home soil in Johannesburg, with skipper Marius Louw saying they have grown as a group from their four weeks on the road in Europe.

They beat the Scarlets 24-23 and picked up losing bonus points in narrow defeats away to Edinburgh (17-16), Benetton (15-10) and Ulster (24-17).

Centre Louw said: “I think we grew a lot as a team. We improved week by week.

“We grew closer as a team, as individuals, and I think our progress week by week showed it. We were unlucky not not to get more wins, but we got points out of every single game. Now we can carry on with the rest of the season back home.”

Vodacom Bulls v Connacht Rugby, Saturday 3pm

Springboks star Willie Le Roux makes his Bulls debut as he opens the latest chapter in an illustrious career that has taken in spells at the Sharks, Cheetahs, Griquas, Wasps and out in Japan.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever be a Bull,” admitted the 34-year-old full-back.

“My dad has always been a Blue Bulls supporter, even though we were living in Cape Town.

“It’s funny with the ride and the way it takes you. I’m now a Bull and I’m enjoying it so much.

“The guys are unbelievable, the coaching staff, everyone. It’s 35 degrees every day when you train, so that’s a bit tough and something to get used to.

“But all the games I have played at Loftus for the Springboks, it’s always been a vibe. The people come out in numbers and support, so I can’t wait to play my first game.”

Director of rugby Jake White is delighted to have Le Roux on board, saying: “He has only been here for a week, but it feels like he has been here for six months. He is unbelievable, it’s like having a coach there.

“He is very clever and extremely skilful, I cannot wait to see how he goes because I am sure people will see just the value he has. He is probably one of the best, if not the best player to have played for the Boks, and if he is not the best then he is definitely the cleverest.”

Connacht are in search of another scalp on South African soil, having beaten the Sharks 13-12 in Durban last weekend.

Coach Pete Wilkins, who hands a debut to Kiwi No 8 Sean Jansen, said: “To play the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld is one of the great experiences in world rugby and although it shapes to be a big challenge our entire squad is excited and ready to go.”

Leinster Rugby v Munster Rugby, Saturday 6.30pm

A 50,000-plus crowd is expected at the Aviva Stadium for this much-anticipated meeting between arch rivals who know each other so well.

There will be a host of Ireland World Cup squad members on duty in Dublin. One of those, Munster prop Jeremy Loughman, sums up the significance of the fixture.

“It has a special feel, the week. You can feel coming in that everyone’s on edge, it’s a bit different,” he said.

“Everyone’s at each other, making sure we’re all perfect, we’re really pushing ourselves,

“They are the weeks you really look forward to, the big weeks, the big crowds. It will be a full house and the atmosphere will be class.

“It’s massively exciting, it will be a proper rivalry match. They’re special games and the ones you want to play in, especially when you grow up watching them. To be involved in them is class.

“It will be fast paced and extremely physical. They’ll definitely be coming for us, but we’ll be looking forward to it.”

Ireland duo Robbie Henshaw and Jack Conan make their first appearances of the season for Leinster, while the newly retired Johnny Sexton will be introduced to the packed crowd before the game.

For Munster, Jean Kleyn returns for his first outing since winning the World Cup with South Africa, while prop Stephen Archer becomes the province’s most-capped player of all-time as he makes his 269th appearance.

Glasgow Warriors v Ulster Rugby, Saturday, 7.35pm

Second hosts third in this battle of two URC pacesetters, with both teams having won four of their first five matches.

Giving his thoughts, Glasgow head coach Franco Smith said: “Ulster are a top-class outfit. They have proven that again by only losing one game so far and have started the season in strong form.

“They have an experienced coaching group that knows us well, they have a squad full of international talent and we expect them to be at their very best, as they have shown good form away from home.

“We are excited to run out in front of a packed Scotstoun once again and the players are up for the challenge ahead.”

Jack Dempsey returns at No 8 for the hosts after recovering from the wrist injury he sustained while on Scotland duty at the World Cup, amid six changes from the bonus point win over Benetton.

Ireland lock Iain Henderson captains Ulster, while wing Jacob Stockdale will be looking to add to his five tries in the URC this season.

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