8:39am Saturday 8th February 2014
AFTER being outmuscled by the English in January, Newport Gwent Dragons will attempt to stand tall in the face of a South African stampede at Rodney Parade tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 1.05pm).
The region are to put a hattrick of demoralising defeats to Bath, Northampton and Newcastle behind them when the the RaboDirect Pro12 returns with a home meeting against Edinburgh.
The Dragons will strengthen their grip on sixth place with victory but could slip to ninth if results go against them this weekend.
They are up against an Edinburgh side that looked poor when they won with the last kick in the September meeting between the sides at Murrayfield.
However, things have gradually taken shape under new boss Alan Solomons and they will leapfrog their hosts if they can do the double over the Dragons.
The blueprint for an upturn in fortunes that has seen them win four of their last six in the league is investment in powerful players from overseas.
Over recent seasons they have attracted South Africans Willem Nel, Izak van der Westhuizen, Wicus Blaauw, Cornell du Preez, Andries Strauss and Carl Bezuidenhout to the Scottish capital along with Argentine pair Tomas Leonardi and Joaquin Dominguez, New Zealanders Ben Atiga and Sam Beard, Georgian Dimitri Basilaia and Tongan Aleki Lutui.
It's fair to say that Scott Johnson's squad selection for the Calcutta Cup hasn't ripped the heart out of the Edinburgh line-up.
"Edinburgh have improved since the start of the season," said Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones.
"They are going down a similar plan to Ulster, bringing a lot of South Africa players in to support their cause and they are keeping them away from the bottom of the table.
"They have an effective game plan where they come around the corner in groups; it's up to us to step up and hit them hard."
Edinburgh, like the Dragons, have struggled on their travels this season and have lost seven out of eight away games.
They don't fare well when they venture to Wales – they last turned over a region on their own turf when beating Cardiff Blues in 2012 while their last success at Rodney Parade was in May 2006 when Chris Paterson scored 27 points.
The Dragons desperately need a win at the start of a month where they travel to Leinster and Ulster either side of a Rodney Parade meeting with Glasgow.
"It's a critical part of the season," said Jones. There's a clutch of games and opportunity to make headway in the league.
"We have four fixtures in Feb and they are all very difficult. It will be a test of our squad and it's an opportunity to step up and show what we can do by playing as hard and as fast as we can."
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