One last big push
URC ROUND FOUR – TEAMS AND PREDICTIONS: South Africa’s two top teams, the Bulls and Sharks, are ready for one last big game before they head home.
With the news breaking on Friday that the SA teams have been cleared to host the next two rounds of the United Rugby Championship, they will head into Saturday’s Round Four matches knowing they will head home with a six-week break coming up.
The Bulls go into their maiden meeting with a Scottish opponent fresh from picking up their first URC victory at Cardiff last week.
Edinburgh, meanwhile, is hosting South African opposition for the second weekend running, having been held to a 20-all draw by the Stormers last Saturday.
The Scottish franchise had won all four of their previous home matches against South African sides prior to the Round Three clash.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said they are determined to go home with a second away win in the bag.
“Winning away from home is always nice,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “Any away wins is a bonus.
“You can look at any competition home ground advantage is a factor.”
He admitted Edinburgh, with 17 Scottish Test team players, will be a tall order to topple.
“They also have a host of South Africans,” he said of a side that includes four South African props – new Scottish squad members Pierre Schoeman, along with former Pretoria schoolboy Luan de Bruin, Boan Venter and Willem Nel.
“There are a few guys that will understand the way South Africans play.
“It will be a difficult game, but we are looking forward to enduing up the game with two wins.”
The break, with their next game at home to Munster only on November 27, means the Bulls gave give it a full go.
“We must use it [the pending six-week break] to our advantage,” White said.
“It is an opportunity to really go as hard as you can” he said, adding: “We can get home to South Africa with the sunshine and regroup.
“Often, on tours, people will start thinking about going home. However, there is a job to be done.
“The fact that we won last week has helped a lot.”
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Scotland centre Mark Bennett returns to the Edinburgh starting XV as one of five changes named by coach Mike Blair.
Bennett’s inclusion in the starting line-up sees James Lang move to the inside centre, as wing Damien Hoyland and scrumhalf Charlie Shiel are both named starters.
The remaining changes are made to the pack as Edinburgh centurion Stuart McInally returns at hooker, while Magnus Bradbury replaces the rested Jamie Ritchie at blindside flank.
“We’ve talked this week about finding balance to our game, after doing some really positive things in the draw with the Stormers last week,” Blair, said.
“We were delighted to see that focus and energy in our fast start, but it’s about maintaining that throughout the full 80 minutes and ensuring we get our threatening strike runners on the ball consistently, and executing our game plan from the first whistle to last.
“The players have been buzzing to get back this weekend and the Bulls present a unique challenge with their size and physicality.”
* Meanwhile, the Sharks – fresh from their drought-breaking win over the Ospreys in Swansea last weekend – make the short trip along the M4 to Cardiff looking to build some momentum.
Cardiff, beaten by the Bulls last Saturday, are looking to avoid going three without a win in the competition for the first time since last November.
The defeat to the Bulls ended a four-game winning run at the Arms Park and left Cardiff’s record against South African opponents at played nine, won six, lost three.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt spoke of the team’s desire to get a second win on the four-match tour, after a rocky start to the trip – which saw them suffer defeats to Munster (17-42) and Glasgow Warriors (24-35) in the opening weeks.
“To get two wins under the belt, I would call that a good tour,” Everitt said of the four-match trip to Europe.
He spoke of the need to get the balance right between blooding youngsters and surrounding them with experience against European teams – where the focus is heavily on set pieces.
“It is important that we get the fundamentals right,” the Sharks coach said.
“There are four things you need to win a rugby game – discipline, set piece, territory and defence.
“If you get those four things right, your attack will flow from that.”
* There are a number of other intriguing matches on Saturday.
Leinster, who host Scarlets, has a fearsome record against Welsh opponents, suffering just one defeat to any of the four regions since September 2018 – a 19-24 loss to the Ospreys in Dublin in March.
The Scarlets will be looking to bounce back from a below-par showing against Munster in Round Three but their most recent away win was a 27-25 victory in Edinburgh at the end of February.
Their last three victories against Irish provinces have all been at Connacht’s expense while they have won just twice at the RDS in 15 visits in all competitions.
Leinster were 52-25 victors when these sides met in Llanelli in January.
Then there is the all-Irish encounter between the in-form Munster against an inconsistent Connacht.
Munster have a maximum haul of 15 points from their opening three matches while the Westerners’ big win against the Bulls is sandwiched by defeats to Cardiff and the Dragons.
Connacht were 24-20 winners when they visited Thomond Park in the Rainbow Cup in May and Munster’s record against Irish opposition since the start of 2020 is won five, lost seven.
But Connacht has not won successive matches against Munster since 2016 and they have never won consecutive away ties in the fixture.
* All the Saturday teams and predictions below …
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 IRE & UK; 12.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Glasgow by 25 points
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Asaeli Tuivuaka, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Alessandro Fusco, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 David Sisi, 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Luca Andreani, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Paolo Pescetto, 23 Erich Cronjé.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Rufus McLean, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 George Horne, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Rory Darge, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Lewis Bean, 3 Oli Kebble, 2 Johnny Matthews, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Thomas Gordon, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Stafford McDowall.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Riccardo Angelucci (Italy), Dario Merli (Italy)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Benetton v Ospreys
(Stadio Comunable Di Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 16.05; 15.05 IRE & UK; 14.05 GMT)
@rugby365com: Benetton by five points
Benetton: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tommaso Menoncello, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Joaquin Riera, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Nahuel Tetaz.
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Cherif Traoré, 18 Ivan Nemer, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 Thomas Benvenuti.
Ospreys: 15 Max Nagy, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Ethan Roots, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Morgan Morris, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Joe Hawkins, 23 Mat Protheroe.
Referee: Aimee Barret–Theron (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Filippo Russo (Italy), Alex Frasson (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)
Leinster v Scarlets
(RDS, Dublin – Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
@rugby365com: Leinster by 28 points
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 James Ryan, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Jimmy O’Brien.
Scarlets: 15 Ioan Nicholas, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Shaun Evans, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Tom Rogers.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Paul Larter (Scotland)
Edinburgh v Bulls
(Edinburgh Stadium, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 17.15; 18.15 SA; 16.15 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bulls by three points
Edinburgh: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 James Lang, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Charlie Shiel, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain) 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Boan Venter, 18 WP Nel, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Mesu Kunavula, 21 Connor Boyle, 22 Ben Vellacott, 23 James Johnstone.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ben Blain (Scotland), Graeme Ormiston (Scotland)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Munster v Connacht
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Munster by 18 points
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Jake Flannery, 23 Dan Goggin.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Matthew Burke.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Greg McGrath, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Eoghan Masterson, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Jarrad Butler, 23 Tom Daly.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Cardiff v Sharks
(Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 SA time; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Cardiff by seven points
Cardiff: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Owen Lane, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Will Boyde, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull (captain), 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Rhys Carr.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Hallam Amos.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Murray Koster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Gerbrandt Grobler, 21 James Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Werner Kok.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: TBC, Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial