FORMER Wales prop Rhodri Jones believes he is playing the best rugby of his career at the Dragons as he prepares for a huge South African examination.

The loosehead will be to the fore on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm) when the Bulls, second in the United Rugby Championship, head to Rodney Parade.

Jones is coming towards the end of his second season with the Dragons and is in talks over a new deal, even though his current one still has a year to run.

The 32-year-old former Scarlets and Ospreys prop, whose career was impacted by an attempted conversion to tighthead, has played 26 games and prospered from getting in a rhythm.

“I love it here,” said the forward from Machynlleth, who won the last of his 24 caps in 2021. “I would say it's my most enjoyable time as a professional rugby player.

“The results haven't gone the way we have wanted but for me personally, I feel I'm playing my best rugby and I enjoy it here.

South Wales Argus: Dragons prop Rhodri JonesDragons prop Rhodri Jones (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“I feel valued and so I’m very happy being here and I think I’ve been more consistent with my performances here.

“I have managed to stay injury free, which has been massive for me, because I've had a few niggles in the past.

“It's been good to get a run of games and I feel when you get a run of games, like anyone, you start to play better. It's been great that Dragons have given me that opportunity and I feel it's gone well.”

The Dragons’ scrum certainly looks stronger when Jones, 6ft 3ins and certainly not a portly prop, is packing down on the left.

Solidity will be vital against a Bulls side that will come with a formidable pack and strong set piece game.

“It should be a good contest upfront and that's what I enjoy, so I'm looking forward to it,” said Jones.

“They’ve got a pretty simple game plan. They look to dominate you physically and so it’s always a good challenge when you come up against the South Africans because you know you've got to be on it.

“It's the fundamentals of the game really. It's set piece, scrum, lineout, mauling. It's pretty basic, but it can be brutal if you're not ready for it.

“First and foremost, you're going to have to match them to be in a chance of even having a game because if they have a sniff, if they see any weakness there, they're going to exploit that.”

The Bulls are hunting a high seeding in the URC play-offs while the Dragons are looking to avoid propping up the table.

South Wales Argus: Rhodri Jones celebrates the Dragons' win against the Scarlets with fellow prop Leon BrownRhodri Jones celebrates the Dragons' win against the Scarlets with fellow prop Leon Brown (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

They have only managed derby wins against the Ospreys and Scarlets this season but have seven games left to head into the summer in high spirits, with the Bulls swiftly followed by fellow strugglers Zebre Parma in Newport.

“It hasn't been the year that we hoped for, the season we wanted, but it's a good opportunity now for us now to have a run of games together,” said Jones.

“Unfortunately, we haven't had many wins, so every game is massive for us, any win for us is great and then we look to build on that.

“Everyone's frustrated the way things have gone and we just want to put things right. That needs to start Saturday and then we look to Zebre.”

The Dragons name their team at midday on Friday with the Wales quintet of full-back Cai Evans, wing Rio Dyer, hooker Elliot Dee and back rowers Aaron Wainwright and Taine Basham set to feature after Six Nations duty.

Lock Ben Carter is poised to make his first appearance since an injury to his left hamstring in mid-November while back rower Harri Keddie is in contention after an elbow problem.