Great anticipation from BKT URC: Ready to swim

When Bradley Roberts, a hooker, returns home to play the Hollywoodbets Sharks in the BKT United Rugby Championship this Saturday (kick-off at 5.05 p.m.), he knows it will be a unique occasion.

Roberts, a rugby player for Wales, was born in Durban and was previously an age-grade player for the Sharks before his career took him abroad.

This weekend, the 27-year-old returns to Kings Park, where he played as an Under-19 player. He is excited to help Dragons overcome a formidable Sharks team and win the derby over Ospreys.

He has also considered how his early years in Durban shaped his career in advance of the game.

“Nothing was on the table for me in South Africa, so I went to RGC for five or six months after playing Under-18s for Sharks in the top school’s competition,” he disclosed.

“Then, I knew a few guys in the Sharks Under-19 Currie Cup squad when I returned for vacation.”

“During the final month leading up to the Currie Cup, I was able to train with the squad. When they reduced the squad, I made it, and they chose me to start the competition.”

“I didn’t really anticipate it; I assumed it would only be a temporary assignment before I returned to Wales.”

It never did work out in the end. However, it was a pleasant introduction to living in a professional setting and being a professional rugby player.

It’s a pivotal point in my career, he continued. Due to my size, I’ve always been a bit of an underdog. However, I’ve always believed that all I really needed was for one coach to look at me and realize that size isn’t everything.

“Look past my size to see what else I have to offer.” I had the chance to do that at Ulster, and they gave me their full support, which paid off when Wales called me up.

“The Sharks front row consisted of Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, and the Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) when I was a member of the Under-19 team. They were focusing on those guys.

“You should see how different I am from those guys. I was obviously not the next Bismarck, and they were searching for someone else. However, everything happens for a reason, and mine was a different route.

Roberts jokes that he can even see his mother’s apartment from his hotel room, and he will undoubtedly have a lot of support from the crowd this weekend.

And he talks fervently about how the Sharks were the team that first introduced him to the game when he was a little child.

“Growing up in Durban I was a big Sharks supporter,” he smiled.

“My friends and I were known as the Scholars, and we used to play rugby and have braais outside the field. When I was younger, I loved going to see the Sharks play.

“Yes, I adored Bismarck du Plessis. He was the enforcer and my hero. Back then, he was just the man.

“I also liked Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski; as a child, I looked up to them all and considered them heroes.

He went on, “I really don’t think they have enough (comp) tickets for me.”

“My entire family and circle of friends will be present.” Many of them haven’t yet witnessed me perform live as a professional.

Even though he was always drawn to sharks, he is clear about what his current passion is.

Roberts is eager for the team to improve on the Ospreys performance this weekend and is loving his time with the Men of Gwent more than ever.

“I adore the Dragons.” As a player, you want your coach to have faith in you, and I think Dai has that, so I feel like they’ve supported me a lot,” he said.

We get along well, and he does believe in what I can do.

“Towards the end of the previous season, I may have slipped due to burnout from playing a lot of rugby and not taking enough time off.

“My performances were a little off, but this season, whether it’s the start or the finish of the season, I’m focused on consistency week in and week out. I’m going to try to play well in every match.

“As a pack, we had a strong season debut. We’ve been clean and solid and, aside from the first game, where we had a few unfortunate penalties, bordering on dominating in some of our games, he continued.

We had a minor setback against Leinster, but we finished last week with a significant point to prove.

Returning to our tried-and-true procedures has helped us immensely. In the end, the game was won, which was fantastic.

Sharks, who will benefit from the return of multiple Springbok players, will take on the Dragons.

Along with Lukhanyo Am, who assumes captaincy responsibilities, head coach John Plumtree has welcomed back lock Eben Etzebeth, scrum half Jaden Hendrikse, and wing Makazole Mapimpi into the starting lineup. Ox Nche and Grant Williams, fellow internationals, provide potency off the bench.

“We enjoy putting ourselves to the test. We want to play against teams that are as strong as they can be because it pushes us to be our best,” Roberts argued.

Since these guys are back from winning the World Cup, it will provide us with a reliable indicator. Sharks are full of quality; we just need to figure out what works for us.

The Sharks have faced difficulties, but we don’t undervalue their abilities because they have a strong team.

The challenge that the South African teams face is always enjoyable. They haven’t quite clicked yet, but once they do, things will be great.

“Everyone here in South Africa is expecting them to perform well.

“We want to win, so we have to prepare the way we normally would.”

My friends and I would frequently have braais outside of the field while playing rugby. When I was younger, I loved going to see the Sharks play.

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