Know your opposition: Scarlets

PUBLISHED: November 24, 2022

The DHL Stormers welcome the Scarlets to DHL Stadium on Friday. We find out more about the Welsh visitors.

The DHL Stormers needed a late try to claim a tense victory in Llanelli last season, so we should be in for another intense clash as both teams get back into the swing of things as the Vodacom United Rugby Championship resumes after a break.

Where is the team based?
They are to be found in the west Wales town of Llanelli. Their home ground is the 14,800-capacity Parc y Scarlets, which was opened in 2008, taking over from the now demolished Stradey Park.

Who is the coach?
Dwayne Peel enjoyed a glittering playing career, winning 76 caps for Wales at scrum-half and also starting all three Tests on the Lions’ 2005 tour of New Zealand, the year he played a big part in the Welsh team winning the Grand Slam. He is now back at the club where he first made his name as a No 9, following coaching stints as an assistant at Bristol and Ulster.

Who are the key players?

Sione Kalamafoni
Last season, the Tongan No 8 made the second-most carries of any player in the league and was sixth-best when it came to tackles. This term, he has moved up to another level again. After the first seven rounds, he is way out on top of the carrying chart, with 117, which is 30 more than the next best, Edinburgh’s Viliame Mata, and he’s also leading the way for successful carries (59). As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also fourth for tackles-made (79) and metres gained (367). What a signing he has been.

Ryan Conbeer
Only Edinburgh’s Scotland star Darcy Graham has scored more tries in the Vodacom URC this season than 23-year-old winger Conbeer, who has touched down nine times. He’s the kind of player who could beat you in a phone box, so quick are his feet, while his stats confirm what a fine finisher he is. His predatory form has seen him tipped as a Wales squad contender.

Vaea Fifita
Having won 11 caps for the All Blacks between 2017 and 2019, back-five forward Fifita has now just launched a second international career, making his debut for the land of his birth Tonga as a result of new eligibility rules. A high-profile summer signing from Wasps, he will be wanting to make up for lost time on the Scarlets’ trip to South Africa, having missed their last three Vodacom URC matches after being sent off against Cardiff.

What’s the heritage of the team?
We’ve just had the 50th anniversary of the Scarlets’ most famous triumph, a 9-3 victory over the All Blacks at Stradey Park in 1972, a day on which the pubs ran dry, so legend has it. It’s also the 150th anniversary of Llanelli RFC being founded in 1872. The 1970s, 80s and 90s saw numerous Welsh league and cup triumphs, while the world champion Wallabies were famously beaten in 1992. Like Cardiff, they retained standalone status with the move to regional rugby in 2003, first as Llanelli Scarlets and then, from 2008, just as the Scarlets, with winning the 2017 PRO12 title the high point of modern times.

What’s the story of their season so far?
They have only won one of their first seven Vodacom URC matches and that was against the only team now below them in the table, Zebre. There was an opening day draw with the Ospreys and the other five games have all ended in defeat. Disciplinary issues haven’t helped, as they have picked up two red cards and ten yellows.
But they do have a number of seasoned Welsh internationals in their 30-man squad for South Africa, including the likes of Jonathan Davies, Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies and Scott Williams, plus overseas Test players in Kalamafoni, Fifita, Sam Lousi and Tomás Lezana.

Did you know?
The goalposts at Parc y Scarlets are adorned with saucepans as a tribute to the town’s history, with Llanelli having been one of the biggest producers of the kitchen utensil. That’s also the background to the Sospan Fach song that fans belt out at games.