Rugby Union: Llanelli draw on Jenkins' wisdom

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The Independent Online
Stradey Park is one of the cathedrals of the game and, given the way Llanelli have been playing this season, divine intervention could be their best hope against the Springboks this afternoon.

Instead, the Scarlets have turned to their former coach, Gareth Jenkins, to give them some distinctly worldly advice in plotting a way to overcome South Africa for the first time.

Victories over All Blacks and Wallabies have been fabled in song but the last time they were at Stradey, in January 1970, the Springboks escaped with a 10-9 win that would have been defeat if Hamilton Jones, a 20-year-old Birmingham University student, had converted a sensational try. Jones's other claim to fame is that he taught the Llanelli captain, Rupert Moon, at Queen Mary Grammar School, Walsall.

Carwyn James was the Scarlets coach, and if ever there was a perfect image of the James way of rugby it was in the move, the ball passing through 18 pairs of hands, that created Alan Richards's try. James was not even there to see it, this lifelong opponent of apartheid having slipped away through the back door after giving his team-talk.

Indeed, if ever there was a James disciple it is Jenkins, who is now the assistant Wales coach. Scarlet forward play has not been the same since he left the club 18 months ago, as this season's league record of four wins, three defeats and a negative points-difference shows.

Over the past fortnight Allan Lewis, who had been Jenkins's predecessor and is his successor as Llanelli coach, has been using Jenkins to restore some order. It has been a disrupted time, what with the chairman resigning, players leaving, injuries and suspension. But right on cue, Anthony Copsey has served his term and Mark Perego has ended his non-playing walkabout.

Jenkins and the South African coach, Kitch Christie, have been waxing lyrical about the Springboks' midweek performance against Wales A. But, however encouraged Christie may be, nothing will have prepared his players for a Stradey Park in full voice.

Cardiff last Saturday was soulless by comparison, a soul being one attribute that Llanelli is never without on a gala occasion such as today's. 'Llanelli is a town with a passion beyond all others for rugby,' Jenkins explained, 'and that will create a special atmosphere which the Springboks will experience for the first time on this tour.' And which they may not like.

Llanelli: I Jones; W Proctor, N Davies, N Boobyer, M Wintle; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, R McBryde, S John, P Davies, A Copsey, P Jones, J Williams, M Perego.

SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert (Natal); C Badenhorst, B Venter (Orange Free State), J Mulder (Transvaal), C Williams; J Stransky (Western Province), J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); B Swart, U Schmidt, I Hattingh (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), H Hattingh (Northern Transvaal), E van der Bergh (Eastern Province), G Teichmann (Natal), F Pienaar (Transvaal, capt).

Referee: D McHugh (Cork).

(Photograph omitted)

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