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URC Round Eight - Teams and predictions

SUNDAY PREVIEW: It is all about South Africa versus Wales during Sunday’s United Rugby Championship Round Eight clashes.


Getting the action underway on Sunday is the highly-contested match between the Lions and Dragons at Ellis Park, followed by an encounter between the Sharks and Cardiff at Kings Park in Durban.

The Lions and Sharks head into the fixtures as favourites given Welsh rugby’s current state.

However former Springboks captain Bobby Skinstad believes the Dragons, the Welsh team he once played for, have the best chance of claiming a landmark South African scalp in the URC.

The 42-cap back row man, who skippered his country 12 times, and made nine appearances for the Dragons,  feels the men from Rodney Parade are well-placed to become the first Welsh side to win a URC game in South Africa.

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“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.

“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. 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.”

As for the conditions the Dragons will face, Skinstad said: “Playing at altitude is always a problem. Even for us coastal boys, going up from Cape Town or Durban, 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.”


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The Lions have yet to secure a victory in Johannesburg this season.

Following their successful tour in Europe, the side suffered defeats to Ulster and Stormers at Ellis Park prior to the international break.

“The current home record is really disappointing,” Lions No.8 Francke Horn said, adding “We want to play good rugby for the fans.

“We have addressed the issue and we obviously going to take it game by game and team by team.

“The next two games are going to be very critical because we need to kick start that winning momentum at home and play better in Johannesburg.”

Sunday’s match between Lions and Dragons is one of three fixtures between the two teams. The Lions will face the Dragons during the European Challenge as well.

Nonetheless, the Johannesburg team knows all too well what to expect. The last time the two sides met Lions secured a 21-11 win at Rodney Parade in May.

“They are a team who loves running the ball,” Lions wing Edwill Van Merwe said when asked about his expectations.

“They love attacking kicks which is something we look forwards to.”

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*Elsewhere, the Sharks. missing a vast majority of their Springboks stars due to their international commitment will take on Cardiff.

But despite the absentees, the Sharks still managed to field a strong side captained by James Venter.

Two log points separate the sides, but Cardiff have played two extra games and a non-negotiable home win for the Sharks will do their title chase the world of good.

“Cardiff is a good team. They have changed how they play since last year,” Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell said.

“And I really think this weekend’s conditions might suit their play. So from our side we need to manage the game well and make sure we are disciplined.

“If you look at the tries they scored, the majority comes from line-out and mauling, so it means we can’t concede too many penalties for them to use their line-out.

“They are defensively very strong and we have to make sure we are up for the challenge.

“They have good structures with loads of experience. Having said that, it is a great experience for our boys.”

For Cardiff, they take to the field at the back of a 17-25 home defeat to Edinburgh and are determined to make amends for what happened in their last match in the Rainbow Nation eight months ago when they were thumped 3-40 by the Stormers in Cape Town.

“I thought we did really well away to the Lions last season. That’s a game we should have won,” said the Director of rugby Dai Young.

“But the Stormers really put us to the sword. We were taught a lesson and we are all determined to try and put that right.

“I don’t think we really recovered after that defeat last season. It gave us a real dent in confidence and we weren’t able to turn it around. We are determined for that not to happen again.”

Cardiff has arrived in South Africa having won four of their first seven URC matches which sees them lying sixth in the table as the highest-placed Welsh side.

“We have had a pretty good start to the season and we want to kick on and it’s a real good place to come out and make a statement,” said Young.

However, it will be easier said than done.

The Sharks’ physicality is a major challenge, admits Cardiff prop Rhys Carre.

“The Sharks haven’t lost at home for five games in a row,” Carre said.

“They bring a lot of physicality.

“We have to front up physically and impose our game on them.”

All the teams and predictions for Sunday follow below …


Lions v Dragons RFC
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 Ireland & UK time)


@rugby365com: Lions by three points


Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruhan Straeuli, 6 Emmanuel Tshituka, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Sti Sithole
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 JP Smith, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Pieter Jansen van Vuren, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Gianni Lombard, 23 Zander du Plessis.

Dragons: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 David Richards, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Sio Tomkinson, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Lewis Jones; 8 Ross Moriarty (captain), 7 Ben Fry, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 James Benjamin, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Che Hope, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Jordan Williams

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa) & Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Ben Blain (Scotland)

Sharks v Cardiff Rugby
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off 18.10; 16.10 Ireland & UK time)


@rugby365com: Sharks by five points


Sharks: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter (captain), 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Dian Bleuler
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Bradley Davids, 22 Lionel Cronje, 23 Ben Tapuai

Cardiff: 15 Ben Thomas, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Botham, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Josh Turnbull (Captain), 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Lopeti Timani, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Gwilym Bradley, 21 James Ratti, 22 Ellis Bevan, 23 Mason Grady

Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant Referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Eoghan Cross


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