Justin Tipuric Ospreys

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12: Justin Tipuric of Ospreys reacts after the team's defeat following the EPCR Challenge Cup Quarter Final match between Gloucester Rugby and Ospreys at Kingsholm Stadium on April 12, 2024 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Ospreys Bid For Perfection On South African Soil By Taming Bulls

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By Simon Thomas

The Ospreys will be looking to maintain their perfect record against South African opposition when they take the field at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

So far this season, they have beaten the Emirates Lions in both the URC and EPCR Challenge Cup, while there have also been league wins against the Hollywoodbets Sharks and, just last weekend, the DHL Stormers.

That 27-21 bonus point victory over the Stormers in Cape Town sent shockwaves through the competition and gave a huge boost to the Welsh team’s play-off hopes.

Now, they have headed up to altitude on the High Veldt to take on the fourth-placed Bulls.

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Coach Toby Booth said: “We are sitting in a situation where we have had South African opposition four times this season and won all four.

“If someone had told you that at the start, you would take that, wouldn’t you?

“We now have an opportunity this weekend – in a very difficult arena against very difficult opposition – to win five from five.

“When you come to this country, you know it will be really tough.

“Everyone knows that South African rugby is what it is. Certainly when you are over here, you are reminded of that everywhere you turn, with the angle of questioning you get from local press and how it’s reported.

“It’s a way of life over here and, whatever happens this weekend, we have certainly got some respect and Welsh rugby has got some respect in this part of the world because of the actions of the team and the team have done brilliantly.”

Looking at the challenge presented by Jake White’s Bulls, Booth said: “They are a high class team with high class coaching.

“You can’t underestimate how difficult this is going to be.

“We are up against an extremely good team playing at home with some extra incentive because of how their recent results have gone.

“There will be the usual altitude sign as you walk out of the tunnel. But you play the game to challenge yourself and we are really looking forward to it. For us, it’s all about energy, clarity and effort.

“We know what we are and we are proud of what we are. We are a team that won’t go away.

“We have created a bit of a narrative that it can be done and we will look to try and continue.

“We are in the hunt for the play-offs and we just need to make sure we are in with a chance come the last week.”

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Booth has freshened up his team, with internationals Justin Tipuric and Gareth Thomas coming into the pack, along with much talked about teenager Morgan Morse, while Wales hooker Dewi Lake makes his comeback on the bench after three months out with hamstring damage.

For the Bulls, Chris Smith takes over at fly-half from the suspended Johan Goosen, who was sent off in last weekend’s home defeat to Munster, while Canan Moodie moves back to the wing from the centre.

Meanwhile, he Dragons are a different team on home soil and will be looking to make it five wins from their last seven matches in all competitions at Rodney Parade when they host Connacht.

Wales hooker Elliot Dee makes his 150th appearance for the Gwent region, while fellow international forward Aaron Wainwright also comes into the side as head coach Dai Flanagan rings the changes following last week’s defeat to Benetton.

Flanagan said: “Connacht target certain games and we would be a game I imagine they will try and target for five points. It is on us to prove people wrong and perform.

“Being at home in front of our people is something we look forward to.”

As for ninth-placed Connacht, they will want to build on last weekend’s 54-16 romp against Zebre as they bid to break into the play-off zone.

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