Dealing with the Galway Gale
URC ROUND TWO – TEAMS AND PREDICTIONS: South Africa’s franchises will get their first taste of Europe’s infamous inclement weather this weekend.
The Bulls and Lions are first up on Friday, with predictions not favourable for either of their United Rugby Championbship matches.
The Bulls face Connacht in Galway, a harbour city on Ireland’s west coast, which sits where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The Lions face the Scarlets in the market town of Llanelli – about 20 kilometres north-west of Swansea on the southwest coast of Wales.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White, speaking ahead of their second encounter with a top Irish outfit, admitted they have to put last week’s hammering at the hands of Leinster behind them.
However, it is the notorious Galway weather that could be their biggest challenge.
Friday will see a mix of sunny spells and showers, some heavy, and possibly thundery. The highest temperatures will be 11°C or 12°C – with the thermometer dropping well into single digits by kick-off at 19.30 local time.
White said he has played in Galway and coached against Connacht.
“It is one of those fields where it is very open,” the Bulls boss said – comparing it to the exposed fields at the University of Cape Town’s infamous ‘Green Mile’.
“You can struggle [playing] into a wind and you are [playing] with the wind, you have to take advantage of it.
“The conditions are a great leveller there.
“It is one of those things, like in cricket, where batting first or fielding first is very important.”
He added that Irish rugby has a “great model” that ensures all their teams are competitive.
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“Irish rugby is in a great place.
“Their coaching systems are really good as well.
“They [Connacht] lost last week [21-33 to Cardiff at Arms Park]. I am sure they will be up for it.”
He added that the competition won’t be getting any easier.
“These teams want to give themselves a chance to play in the European Cup competition as well,” he said about the race to finish in the top eight.
Connacht coach Andy Friend admitted last week’s result was “disappointing but”, said as a coaching group they saw enough to firmly believe they’re on the right track.
“If we can be more clinical at the crucial times, I know we’ll be tough to beat whoever we face,” Friend said.
“We hope to see more of that against a very formidable Bulls outfit.”
* Meanwhile Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said they are well aware that Scarlets will pose a different challenge from what they faced in the 38-26 win over Zebre in Italy last week.
Van Rooyen spoke about the star quality of the Scarlets players – with a host of Welsh players and few British and Irish Lions to boot – that makes them a real threat.
While the weather forecast for Friday in the Llanelli region is slightly better than in Galway, strong winds and wet conditions will ensure the Lions’ approach to the game must be adjusted.
“They are a team that gets energy from an attacking brand,” Van Rooyen told @rugby365com.
He pointed to their halfbacks – Welsh-capped scrumhalf Kieran Hardy and Wales Under-20 flyhalf Sam Costelow – as the team’s drivers.
“They have a good kicking game as well.
“They express themselves through the way they attack -players with a lot of X-factor and a lot of brilliance.”
Van Rooyen added that the conditions will ensure it is a physical battle.
Lions captain Burger Odendaal said the weather reminds him of a mid-winter trip to Newlands in Cape Town.
“It [the conditions] will make the game more of a 50-50 contest,” the seasoned midfielder said.
“Playing in wet conditions do not favour them [Scarlets] or us.
“If it is rainy, windy conditions, our forwards will really have to make a step up.”
Scarlets coach Dwayne Peel spoke of the “excitement” of facing South African opposition.
“We have scouted the Lions through the Currie Cup and we took a lot from last week’s game versus Zebre,” Peel said.
“They were very impressive in the first half and punished Zebre every opportunity they got.
“The fact that four big South African franchises are in the URC is great for the league and we are looking forward to the challenge on Friday.”
All the Friday teams and predictions are below!
Friday, October 1
Connacht v Bulls
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 SA time; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Connacht by nine points
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Abraham Papali’i, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Oisin Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jordan Duggan.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Leva Fifita, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Paul Boyle, 23 Sammy Arnold.
Bulls: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Stedman Gans.
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Andrew Cole (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Ireland)
Scarlets v Lions
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 SA time; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Scarlets by 12 points
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Tom Price, 4 Jac Price, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Phil Price, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Shaun Evans, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Ioan Nicholas.
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Pieter Jansen Van Vuren, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Botha, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Eddie Fouche, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Elgan Williams (Wales), Tom Spurrier (Wales)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)