VIDEO: URC is 'tailor-made' for SA teams
Not only have South African coaches made some great strides, but the nature of the competition is ‘tailor-made’ for South African teams.
British and Irish Lions legend Jamie Roberts and Springbok Breyton Paulse fronted up to the media on Thursday, unpacking the success of South African teams in the United Rugby Championship.
Roberts, 35, has 94 caps for Wales and was a member of the B&I Lions tours to South Africa (2009) and Australia (2013). He also had a spell playing for the Stormers in Cape Town back in 2020.
Paulse, 46, played 64 Tests for the Springboks between 1999 and 2007.
The defending-champion Stormers have a full-house 15 points from their first three matches, while all four South African sides are in the top half of the table.
The teams from the Republic have won 10 of their 12 games against European outfits.
“I think this league is perfect for South African rugby,” Roberts told a URC media round table.
“The attritional nature of the games and with the weather coming in now, it suits the SA teams.
“You’ve got that South African psyche of set-piece dominance, line-speed in defence, real aggression in the contact area.
“That is what Northern Hemisphere rugby has always been.”
He drew a comparison to why South African teams struggled in Super Rugby – with just four titles in nearly three decades, from 1993 to 2020.
“It is certainly very different to the Super Rugby of old,” Roberts said.
“This style of rugby in the URC suits the South African teams better than the old Super Rugby and they are really finding their feet now.
“They have really worked out which style of rugby wins games.”
He said SA teams even adjust better to adverse weather conditions.
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“I think back to the Cardiff-Lions match, which I worked on a few weeks ago [as a television pundit].
“That was just a complete lesson in how to manage a game under those conditions.
“It wasn’t pretty, the wind was howling, it was pouring down with rain.
“The Lions just took the game by the scruff of the neck and it was a real lesson in how to manage a wet weather game.
“As a Welshman, I watched that match going: ‘We should be doing that better than the South Africans, because we play in the rain for most of the season’.
“However, the Lions gave Cardiff a lesson.
“It just feels like the South African sides are adapting more quickly to the way the game is played in the Northern Hemisphere than the Welsh sides are at the moment.”
Paulse took it a step further, complimenting the South African coaches for masking the necessary adjustments.
“You have got to compliment the coaches for how fast they have learned,” the retired Bok flyer said.
“Guys like Jake White [Bulls] and John Dobson [Stormers] have really worked it out on how to interpret rules and how to use a squad system.
“The South African teams have been very much more competitive than at the start of last season.
“They have worked out a way to play.”