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Ex-Springboks skipper's bold prediction with all 4 Welsh clubs in SA

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

Former Springboks captain Bobby Skinstad believes the hoodoo that has seen clubs from Wales fail to win in South Africa in the URC is set to be broken this weekend. Despite Jacques Niebaner’s Boks playing England at Twickenham and Wayne Pivac’s Wales hosting Australia at the Principality on Saturday, the URC is kicking back into action after its recent break.

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The resumption of the league will very much have a Wales versus South Africa feel to it as all four Welsh regions have been scheduled to play games away in the southern hemisphere, a place that hasn’t been a happy hunting ground since Cardiff, Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons started travelling there in 2021/22.

All eight fixtures in South Africa last season between the four Welsh regions and the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers were lost by the visitors, and an opportunity to change this pattern is now on the horizon with Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets all back in South Africa to play two games each over the next two weekends.

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Skinstad believes the Welsh team he once played for now has the best chance of claiming a landmark South African scalp in the URC. It was 2004 when the 42-cap back-rower, who skippered his country 12 times, had a spell with the Dragons, making nine appearances.

Claiming that the side from Rodney Parade are well placed to become the first Welsh team to win a URC game in South Africa when they take on the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday, Skinstad said: “They have won their last two games in the competition while the Lions have been up and down, either on fire or sort of non-commital to arriving at kick-off,” said Skinstad.

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“So if the Dragons can make a really good start, they will be comfortable that they can knock them over. With the kind of confidence they have now, they will think they can go there and win that game. What I like about them is they are playing 80-minute games this season whereas they fell off a little bit last season.

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“Of the four Welsh sides this weekend, they would probably be the one that would say ‘Let’s go and pick up the five points’. I definitely think it will be the closest of the four games in South Africa this weekend.

“Playing at altitude is always a problem. Even for us coastal boys, going up from Cape Town or Durban, it is difficult, so that will be a little bit different. It’s not quite Newport up there at 1,000 metres above sea level. But if you stay in the game, it’s been proven you can beat it. The second wind becomes the third wind.”

Dragons were beaten 55-20 at the Bulls and 51-3 at the Sharks during their South African trip earlier this year but their frame of mind on this latest trip is very different now that Dean Ryan is no longer in charge. They are currently placed in tenth having won three of their seven matches this season.

Elsewhere, the Scarlets will take on the Stormers in Cape Town on Friday, with the Ospreys visiting the Vodacom Bulls at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld the following day and then Cardiff away to the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Sunday.

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I would say South Africa would be delighted with four wins, but three out of four is slightly more likely. As I mentioned, the Lions are the ones that might be targeted, although they have got a young squad that have proven they can beat anyone on their day,” added Skinstad.

“The Stormers should have enough, but I would also see the Scarlets aiming at it as a surprise win for them away from home. I think we are going to see a titanic struggle in that game. There is absolutely no chance the Stormers are going ‘Ok, this is a shoe-in, I’ll pick up my points and move on’. They are aware that the Scarlets are a dangerous side when they get their game together. So it’s all hands to the pumps for the Stormers.”

This weekend’s fixtures are the first of back-to-back URC games for the Welsh teams out in South Africa, with Sharks vs Ospreys, Stormers vs Dragons, Bulls vs Cardiff and Lions vs Scarlets to follow in round nine.

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