URC Round 11 - teams and predictions
COME IN NO.1: Winning the South African conference in the United Rugby Championship carries additional weight – a spot in Europe’s premiers competition – the Champions Cup.
It is not a secret that South African teams can qualify for the European Cup from the 2022/23 season.
However, with the URC competition finally gathering what seems like some real momentum, the reality of Euro qualification is beginning to set in for the SA franchises.
It will make for two absorbing South African derbies – the Lions hosting the Bulls in Johannesburg and Stormers heading to Durban for an appointment with Sharks.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt described the next fortnight as a “two-match Test series” for the South African teams.
“It is pretty much like the Springboks against the British and Irish Lions last year,” he said about the back-to-back derbies.
“It is really important as far as the domestic shield [SA conference] is concerned.
“All the South Africa teams still have games to play abroad. It is important that we get wins at home and in South Africa,” the man in charge of the SA conference leaders said.
Everitt admitted the attraction of qualifying for the Champions Cup in Europe is a major driving force.
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“One of the guarantees of this competition is that if you finish top in your conference – regardless of where you are on the standings – you qualify for Europe.”
Everitt said he will be looking for his team to bring the same energy and intensity that saw them edge the Lions (47-37) in Johannesburg last week.
“The positives from last week were the opportunities we created, and I was happy with the quick attack and the way we were able to move the ball and the continuity we got from that; the offloads in the build-up to some of the tries was also really pleasing,” explained Everitt.
“And we also managed the game well at times and that was why we came out on top.”
Stormers coach John Dobson touched on the other aspect of the Kings Park derby – the number of former Cape Town-based players now calling Durban their home, including Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi, SA’s Player of the Year, and Springbok hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi.
“Bongi is never not fired up,” Dobson said, adding: “He is not nicknamed ‘Tyson’ without reason.
“There will be a lot in that – with Siya and a number of other guys who were around here [in Cape Town].”
The Stormers coach described it as a “great” and “exciting” local derby.
“You can look at them on paper and see what they have invested in that team,” Dobson said of Marco Masotti and his MVM consortium, which one courted the Stormers brains trust as a possible investor, before being dismissed by those in charge at Newlands.
The great equaliser will be the conditions in Durban – already hot and humid this time of the year, there is the possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon.
“We will have to be clever with where how we use the ball,” Dobson said, adding: “Even if there was no rain, just the humidity means you can’t afford to make errors.
“We will have to make adjustments for the conditions and the highline [rush] defence of the Sharks. I don’t think either team will be globetrotting.”
Dobson admitted that conditions play a role in the Sharks’ tactics of playing a territorial game and forcing the opposition into errors.
In the other Saturday derby, up in Johannesburg, it is two teams coming off defeats and desperate to get their campaigns back on track.
Bulls coach Jake White has made no secret of the fact that they are putting a premium on the Currie Cup, given that their European prospects are grim, at best.
Their hosts, the Lions, still harbour some hope, although injuries are hampering them – despite trailing the pace-setting Sharks by just two points.
Lions captain Burger Odendaal, a man intimately familiar with the Bulls – having played more than 100 games for the Pretoria franchise and captained them – said playing against the Bulls will always be a “big occasion”.
He said the way to keep the emotion out of it is to “stick to the structure”.
“[Last week] against the Sharks we became too individualistic and errors crept in,” the Lions skipper said.
“It is important to stick to the process and not overthink the game.”
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen spoke of the physical nature of Trans-Jukskei derbies and touched on the size of the Bulls forwards – admitted that set pieces will be key.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White also spoke of the significance of the back-to-back derbies in the next fortnight – a common feature of European competitions.
He admitted that having lost at home to the Stormers last week, White first-ever loss at Loftus Versfeld since he joined them in 2020, makes it more important for the Pretoria outfit to get back in the winners’ circle.
“In the European Cup and Challenge Cup you have to play the same opposition, home and away, on consecutive weekends,” White said.
“It will be a very interesting experience for these players as well.
“Whatever you try this week, you have to change a few things next week, because you play the same opposition again.”
White added that “composure” will be key at Ellis Park, given the desperate situation both teams find themselves in.
The Lions will also be keen to bounce back from their loss to the Sharks last weekend.
“We have no doubts that they will want to build from that and go one better in search of a win in their own back yard this weekend,” White said.
“It is always a tough, physical battle against the Lions.
“They are a well-coached side that will throw everything at us.
“We are looking forward to another exciting URC encounter.”
* Meanwhile leaders Edinburgh can consolidate the top spot if they claim a seventh championship win from nine starts this season by toppling the Ospreys in Wales on Saturday.
Leinster, though, is hot on Edinburgh’s heels and an away-day success – also in Wales against Cardiff – could see them take over the top spot.
Elsewhere on Saturday, fourth-placed Glasgow Warriors face a testing encounter against Connacht in Galway, with Munster chasing an 18th successive victory over their Italian hosts Zebre Parma.
We bring you all the Saturday teams and predictions!
Saturday, January 29
Lions v Bulls
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bulls by nine points
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Emmanuel Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Willem Alberts, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Sibusiso Sangweni, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier; 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel , 20 Muller Uys; 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith , 23 David Kriel.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa) & Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors
(Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 14.55; 14.55 GMT)
@rugby365com: Connacht by seven points
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Alex Wootton, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Sammy Arnold, 11 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 10 Cathal Forde, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Leva Fifita, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Greg McGrath, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jordan Duggan.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Tietie Tuimauga, 19 Oisín Dowling, 20 Seán Masterson, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Shayne Bolton, 23 Oran McNulty.
Glasgow: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Kyle Steyn, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Rufus McLean, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Thomas Gordon, 6 Ryan Wilson (cc), 5 Richie Gray, 4 Kiran McDonald, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Fraser Brown (cc), 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Ally Miller, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Stafford McDowall.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Stuart Douglas (Ireland)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)
Sharks v Stormers
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
@rugby365com: Sharks by 12 points
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Henry Chamberlain, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phendulani Buthelezi, 7 Jeandré Labuschagne, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Joaquin Bonilla, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Angelo Davids, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Nama Xaba, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Dan du Plessis, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Morne Ferreira (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Zebre Parma v Munster
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 18.00; 17.00 UK time; 17.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Munster by 18 points
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Jacopo Trulla, 10 Timothy O’Malley, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Iacopo Bianchi, 6 Liam Mitchell, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Joshua Zilocchi, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Potu Junior Leavasa, 21 Alessandro Fusco, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Giulio Bisegni.
Munster: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Liam Coombes, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jake Flannery, 9 Neil Cronin, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Scott Buckley, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Chris Farrell.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Federico Vedovelli (Italy), Maria Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Ospreys v Edinburgh
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
@rugby365com: Edinburgh by five points
Ospreys: 15 Mat Protheroe, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Ethan Roots, 7 Harri Deaves, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Lloyd Ashley, 4 Rhys Davies, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 Huw Sutton, 20 Morgan Morris, 21 Reuben Morgan Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tiaan Thomas Wheeler.
Edinburgh: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Matt Currie, 12 Cammy Hutchison, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Mesulame Kunavula, 7 Connor Boyle, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Glen Young, 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Angus Williams, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Harrison Courtney, 18 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Ben Muncaster, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Charlie Savala, 23 Mark Bennett.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Cardiff Rugby v Leinster
(Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Leinster by nine points
Cardiff: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Botham, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Josh Turnbull (captain), 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Efan Daniel, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Sam Moore, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Garyn Smith.
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Jamie Osborne, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Rory O’Loughlin, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Scott Penny, 7 Will Connors, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Ed Byrne.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Tommy O’Brien.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Aled Evans (Wales)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial