Rainbow Cup, Round Six - teams and predictions
FINAL SHOOT-OUT: An outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the Ospreys camp has gifted Italian side Benetton a place in the June 19 Final.
The winners of the Pro14 conference, Benetton, will keep a keen eye on Kings Park in Durban – where the Sharks and Bulls are in a straight shoot-out to decide who will visit the Italians at their Treviso home ground, Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
The Bulls hold a four-point advantage ahead of their trip to Durban, but the Sharks could yet sneak ahead and travel to face Benetton.
A single bonus point would likely be enough for the Bulls, given the gulf in points difference between the top two.
The Sharks must aim for a bonus-point win, while leaving the Bulls empty-handed if they are to book their place without needing to rely on tie-breakers.
The weekend’s other fixtures are all dead rubbers – Zebre at home to Munster, Leinster hosting the Dragons, the Stormers at home to the Lions and Scarlets hosting Edinburgh.
The Stormers could finish second in the South African conference if the Sharks fail to overcome the Bulls.
Zebre go in search of their first win of the Pro14 conference when they host Munster.
The Italians sit bottom of the table after failing to chalk up a single victory and round off their campaign against the Pro14 runners-up, who will be bidding to climb above Glasgow Warriors to finish second.
Leinster’s defeat to Glasgow last weekend ruled them out of contention for the Final, but they could yet jump into the top three should the result in Parma go their way and they achieve the necessary swing in points difference against the Dragons in Dublin.
The Dragons sit three points behind this weekend’s hosts, so could climb above the Pro14 champions with victory at the RDS.
The final match of the weekend sees the Scarlets host Edinburgh in a battle between two sides who have earned one win apiece in the competition so far.
However, all the attention will focus on Durban, where the Bulls will aim to reach yet another Final and land their fourth title in the last 12 months – to go with their Super Rugby Unlocked, Currie Cup and Preparation Series victories.
Knowing that the Sharks need to score a four-try bonus-point win and keep the Bulls from collecting any points, the visitors from Pretoria are in a position of power.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said his team has already shifted into knock-out mode.
(Continue below video …)
“We have approached this match as if it was a semifinal,” White said.
“Nothing less than a win is good enough.”
He also said expects both teams to take an expansive approach and chase four-try bonus points.
“I have been coaching long-enough to know that it is like a 50-over-a-side match in cricket,” White said, adding: “If you just want to go out there and block it out, you may be able to bat through the 50 overs, but you can’t win.
“The reality is you need to make runs.”
White suggested it will be an ‘exciting’ game, as the Bulls also need to score at least four try for the bonus point they require.
“The one way we know we get a point is through scoring four tries.
“It means we are going to go flat-out for four tries and they are going to go flat-out for four tries.
“Once we have four tries we have our destiny in our own hands. I am sure if we score four tries we will be close to winning the game anyway.”
The Bulls boss pointed to the Currie Cup Final earlier this year when they only sealed the win with a converted try late into extra time.
“The Sharks are a solid team that play a certain style of rugby that suits them.
“They will be motivated knowing they need to comfortably beat us.”
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said they are keen to keep their winning run against the Bulls in Durban going.
After losing twice in this competition, the Sharks hit back last weekend to open up the title race and Everitt expects nothing different when his team host the Pretoria side.
“We’ve bounced back before and we haven’t lost to the Bulls at home, so we’re very keen to turn the tables on them at home.
“Last week against the Lions we were in a similar situation – knowing we had to get a full-house of five points.”
However, he said it will be a measured approach and not a helter-skelter onslaught on the Bulls.
“If you start being careless with the ball and start chasing bonus points from the outset, it can work against you,” Everitt said.
“We can’t allow the Bulls to earn a bonus point either.”
The Sharks coach spoke about ‘building momentum’ on the scoreboard and putting themselves in the right areas of the field to get points.
“Playing careless rugby in the wrong areas of the field will not help us.
“We know the Bulls are a really good defensive team.”
Everitt aid they need to seize the momentum early in the game and remain in control for the entire 80 minutes.
He added that “discipline” is another key aspect of the game.
All the Round Six teams and predictions below the video …
Friday, June 11
Zebre v Munster
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 19.00; 18.00 UK time; 17.00 GMT)
Zebre has lost their last eight matches since beating the Dragons at home in February while their most recent success against an Irish province came at Connacht more than three years ago.
Munster have suffered just one defeat during the Rainbow Cup – against Connacht in Round Three – and will be expected to see off Zebre this weekend, having won each of the last 16 meetings between these sides.
Johann van Graan’s men, who have lost once away from home since January, were 52-3 victors at Thomond Park in November while they won the last encounter on Italian soil 28-0.
@rugby365com: Munster by 25 points
Zebre: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Pierre Bruno, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Potu Junior Leavasa, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Nicolò D’Amico, 19 Samuel Ortis, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Filippo Di Marco, 23 Michelangelo Biondelli.
Munster: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Billy Holland, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Jake Flannery, 23 Chris Cloete.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Clara Munarini (Italy)
TMO: Matteo Lipperini (Italy)
Leinster v Dragons
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 20.15; 19.15 GMT)
Leinster’s home form has been patchy by their own lofty standards, having lost three games at the RDS so far in 2021 – against Connacht, the Ospreys and Munster.
That said, the Dragons come into the match on the back of three consecutive defeats and have not beaten an Irish province since a 21-8 victory over Connacht in September 2017.
Leinster have won the last nine meetings between these sides, including a 35-29 triumph at Rodney Parade in February.
@rugby365com: Leinster by 30 points
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Jimmy O’Brien, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Ryan, 4 Ryan Baird, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Cian Kelleher
Dragons: 15 Josh Lewis, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Ben Carter, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Ioan Davies
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Saturday, June 12
Stormers v Lions
The Rainbow Cup South Africa match between the Lions and Stormers, scheduled for Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, has been cancelled in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The decision was taken as part of prescribed precautions advised by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to limit the risk of further infection in the rugby community.
The decision was triggered on Friday following receipt of positive results from scheduled testing of the Lions squad. As determined by the competition rules, the Stormers will be awarded four log points because of the cancellation.
“The Lions have followed all protocols and taken all the appropriate steps,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.
“While the cancellation is unfortunate, their approach ensures that the risk of cancellation of their match against the British & Irish Lions in the Lions Series on 3 July is well managed.”
Sharks v Bulls
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 18.15; 16.15 GMT)
The Sharks were beaten 43-9 by the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Round Three – the first of two consecutive defeats that damaged their push for the Final.
The second came at the hands of the Stormers in Durban and they have not lost back-to-back matches at Kings Park since April 2019.
The last four meetings between these sides have gone the way of the home team, but the Sharks know they will have to pull a mighty performance out of the bag if they are to prevent the Bulls from finishing top of the pile.
@rugby365com: Bulls by three points
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Juan van der Mescht, 3 Khuthazani Mchunu, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 James Venter, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 7 Ruan Nortje, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements – from: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Gio Aplon, 24 Robert Hunt, 25 Jan Uys, 26 Dawid Kellerman, 27 Richard Kriel.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Griffin Colby (both South Africa)
TMO: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Sunday, June 13
Scarlets v Edinburgh
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 13.00; 12.00 GMT)
These sides played out a Pro14 classic when they met at Murrayfield in February, so the returning fans at Parc y Scarlets will hope they are in for another treat.
The Scarlets won 27-25 on that occasion but have lost two of their last three games at home, which Edinburgh can take some confidence from.
The Scottish capital club will also be boosted by the fact they have won on their last three visits to Llanelli.
Edinburgh has, however, only won one of their last seven matches – that victory coming at home to Zebre.
@rugby365com: Scarlets by eight points
Scarlets: 15 Tom Rogers, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Morgan Jones, 4 Josh Helps, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Ryan Elias (captain), 1 Steff Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Danny Drake, 20 Iestyn Rees, 21 Will Homer, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Joe Roberts.
Edinburgh: 15 Kyle Rowe, 14 Jack Blain, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Cammy Hutchison, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Mesu Kunavula, 7 Connor Boyle, 6 Jamie Ritchie (captain), 5 Jamie Hodgson, 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Angus Williams, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ally Miller, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 George Taylor.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones, Aled Evans (both Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
* Additional reporting by @Pro14Official