URC, Round 13 - Teams and Predictions
FRIDAY PREVIEW: The United Rugby Championship enters Round 13 on Friday where the teams will have the play-offs in the back of their minds as there are only six rounds of pool matches remaining in the competition including this week’s fixtures.
The Bulls and the Stormers will kick off the action on Friday with the Pretoria side going up against the Scarlets in Llanelli and the Capetonians taking on Ulster in Belfast.
The Bulls, who are currently in third place on the log behind Leinster and the Stormers with 39 points, will look to kick on from their victory against the Dragons away in their last outing, and the fact that the Scarlets have won only three of their 12 matches this season will boost their confidence.
The visitors, however, will be wary of the fact that two of the home side’s three victories were in Llanelli, while they also registered a draw on their home patch in the opening match of the competition.
Adding to this, the Scarlets come off a morale-boosting away win in their last URC outing against Cardiff.
The Bulls have been more effective on attack and defence, and they will have the extra motivation of staying ahead of Ulster and Glasgow on the standings, who have the luxury of a game in hand.
The visitors have shuffled their playmakers for the match with Johan Goosen starting at No.15 and Chris Smith getting the No.10 jersey.
Chris Rossouw – the Bulls’ backline coach – said the combination of Smith and Goosen allows the side to exploit the double-kicking options.
Rossouw also highlighted the importance of confidence going into the fixture against a Scarlets side with balance and confidence.
“Looking over the last month, I think we are high in the confidence bar last week. Against the Dragons, at the back of the Stormers and the Sharks, the guys bounced back and they were great on the evening in how they managed the game with great energy and confidence.
“We obviously took that to Exeter [in the Champions Cup] and last week we slipped [against Lyon], but I thought it was a great learning curve for many of us who were in France for the first time.
“We all know Scarlets are on high at the moment, but saying that, there is nice energy at our camp and it’s almost like a change of season for us as well.
“Confidence will be important but obviously execution and being clinical on the night will be more important.
Rossouw went on to say: ” The Scarlets are known as a team that attacks a lot. What they have done over the last two months is to find a balance between their attacking and kicking game, and how we manage that will be crucial for us and make sure we do not get pinned in our own half.
“They have a great pack of forwards and an experienced backline, that remains one of their strengths so it is important for us to manage the kicking game as a whole.
Asked about physicality and managing that against Scarlets, the backline coach responded: “We all know it starts there, we will need to be physical and look to dominate the collisions to have any momentum. For us it will be one of the focus points. We know they have some good runners and we also know their big boys have the ability to offload in tackles, so we need to make sure we identify those and look to limit those opportunities through our tackle techniques.
“We will need to bring the physicality that we know the South African boys can bring.”
Stormers in Belfast
The Stormers will face a tough test against Ulster at Ravenhill Stadium where a victory would be important to allow them some breathing space in the top two on the log as the tournament nears the knock-out stages.
The Cape side trail log-leaders Leinster by 11 points, while they hold a narrow six-point lead over the Bulls.
The visitors have been marginally better on attack, scoring nine more points, but they will look to take advantage of their strong defence, which has placed them in the top three defensive sides.
Interestingly, Ulster have lost three of their last four league matches and suffered defeats in their last two matches against the Stormers, however, the Capetonians have only won one of their last four away games.
Stormers head coach John Dobson has made 10 changes to his starting team with Damian Willemse and captain Steven Kitshoff getting a rest.
Springbok Evan Roos will get a start at No.8, while the other key change is at flyhalf with Jean-Luc du Plessis taking over the No.10 jersey.
Dobson said that while there are a number of changes, there is no shortage of quality in the matchday squad.
“It is another short turnaround this week, but we are excited to see what these combinations can do.
“We have been bolstered by the return of some experienced players and we will need all of it against a good Ulster side,” he said.
It has not been easy for South African teams in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter conditions, but the Stormers have a plan in place to try and make life difficult for the Irish side in Belfast.
“We think we got a good plan. I don’t think traditional Stormers rugby will be a massive feature tomorrow [Friday],” said Dobson.
“We will try to create a bit of chaos and I think we have chosen a team to support that plan.
“Jean-Luc understands a lot of what we are trying to do and so does Stefan Ungerer.
“The style of rugby might be a little bit different and I think we have chosen the personnel and it is up to [captain] Marvin [Orie] and his guys on the field to see if we can stick to that.”
Meanwhile, Ulster’s resurgence in finding form to record a big win over Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup last weekend and Duane Vermeulen’s massive influence in the result would have made them odds-on favourites for Friday’s clash.
Wing Rob Lyttle said as much as he warned the Stormers his side were intent on using the confidence from the Sale game to put them on the front foot.
“It’s a very big game, as we want that home semifinal in the URC and we want to aim for that,” Lyttle said this week.
“The Sale win has given us a boost of confidence and we owe the Stormers one after last year. Last week means nothing if we don’t back it up.”
See below for Friday’s teams and predictions!
🔥 “Absolute incredible scenes” 🔥
Relive last season’s Final 4️⃣ match up between @UlsterRugby & @TheStormers 👏#BKTURC #URC | #ULSvSTO | #ThrowbackThursday pic.twitter.com/ImR58KxbpL
— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) January 26, 2023
Friday, January 27:
Scarlets v Bulls
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT; 21.35 SA time)
@rugby365com: Bulls by three points.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Steff Evans, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Ioan Nicholas, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Aaron Shingler (captain), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Daf Hughes, 1 Kemsley Mathias.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Eddie James.
Bulls: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 David Kriel, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johann Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Hendrick Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Cornal Hendricks, 23 Wandisile Simelane.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Ben Breakspear (Wales)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Ulster v Stormers
(Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT; 21.35 SA time)
@rugby365com: Ulster by five points.
Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Rob Lyttle, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ben Moxham, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Harry Sheridan, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Andrew Warwick, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ethan McIlroy.
Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 11 Cornel Smit, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Marvin Orie (captain), 4 Ben-Jason Dixon, 3 Brok Harris, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Sazi Sandi, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Kade Wolhuter, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)