By Harry Corish
Dwayne Peel believes the Bulls will provide his confident Scarlets side with a tough challenge on Friday night, as they look to build on their recent success in Europe.
The Scarlets return to URC action this weekend by welcoming the third-place Bulls to Parc y Scarlets. The South African side have won eight of their 12 games in league action and will be looking to solidify their top four spot.
The Scarlets endured a tough start to the season, winning just one game from their first nine matches of the season, which included a draw against Ospreys and seven losses against Italian, South African and Irish opposition.
But results have picked up in recent weeks, a sequence which started with a 39-7 win against Bayonne.
The West Walian side have since won five of their last six games in both the URC and in Europe, earning themselves a last 16 spot in the Challenge Cup.
#ChallengeCupRugby #YmaOHyd pic.twitter.com/mpqZJISVKZ
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) January 26, 2023
With that recovery mode in full flow, it could be another night of celebration in Llanelli with what would be a notable victory.
Head coach Peel said: “I am delighted to be honest. At the start of the Challenge Cup we spoke about wanting to finish at the top of the pool and we have done that.
“The Bulls will be a big ask this week, they have an excellent set-piece that can go after you and wheels on the edge as well.
“They pumped us in Loftus last year when we weren’t at the races against them. They are a top four side so it is a good challenge for us this week.
“They bring a lot of physicality, especially up front, with players like Elrigh Louw, Nortje at lock, Brink in the back row.”
Johnny McNicholl’s pass 🔗 Jonathan Davies’ finish… delicious 😍
📺 Watch LIVE on @francetvsport, @beinsports_FR, @S4C and @FloRugby#ChallengeCupRugby | @scarlets_rugby pic.twitter.com/6IOOla1WAs
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) January 21, 2023
Aaron Shingler leads his side with Jonathan Davies out injured and Ken Owens preparing for the Six Nations with Wales.
Sam Wainwright has impressed since arriving in Llanelli on loan from Saracens and has started to show his quality since getting regular game time.
The tight-head prop from North Wales has enjoyed a whirlwind few months after representing Wales during their recent tour of South Africa despite limited game time for Saracens.
Wainwright added: “When you are growing up, you watch people in your position and Adam Jones was an unbelievable scrummager.
“He was someone I really looked up to, hoping I’d one day get the opportunity to achieve what he has.
🏴 men’s international #1179
Llongyfarchiadau Sam Wainwright 👏
What a debut!#SAvWAL pic.twitter.com/PUeJ1LShuC
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) July 10, 2022
“It was a bit of a mad scenario going into the Welsh camp, it was a whirlwind, to go from not playing much rugby for Saracens to getting the phone call from Wayne Pivac asking me if I would like to go to South Africa.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was a huge moment. It was a bit of a blur after that for a while. It was a big step up. It was a bit crazy to go from not playing much to that.”
“I love it so much here. I am really glad to be back in Wales. It’s a special thing to be Welsh and being back in your country is a huge thing playing-wise.
“I’ve had a good few minutes and that’s what I need, the game-time. To improve, you need the tough lessons and the good learnings.”
The Scarlets against the Bulls is live on BBC Two Wales and kicks off at 7.35pm.