URC Round Nine - teams and predictions
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY PREVIEW: The Stormers are hoping to turn Nelson Mandela Bay stadium into a ‘home’ away from home.
The Port Elizabeth venue plays host to the Round Nine United Rugby Championship encounter between the Stormers and the Dragons.
Port Elizabeth has not seen a professional team in action since the Southern Kings were disbanded in September 2020, after going into voluntary liquidation
The Stormers hope to tap into the vacuum created by the absence of a professional team.
“We know that the people of Port Elizabeth have plenty of passion for our team, so we can’t wait to get out there and experience the atmosphere,” Stormers coach John Dobson said of the outing at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
However, emotion alone will not be enough for the defending champions against a tricky Welsh outfit.
Unlike their Cape Town home, the Eastern Cape venue has a pitch more sympathetic to the oval ball.
That should allow the Stormers to ‘express’ themselves more and use the obvious strengths of their team.
Dobson admitted that the Nelson Mandela Bay surface gives you a feeling of ‘more space’ that would allow them to move the ball quite nicely.
The Stormers coach was also wary of the ‘no-name brand’ Dragons, who are improving on a weekly basis.
“Last season the Dragons was one of our most physical games,” the Stormers coach told @rugby365com.
“I have to keep reminding our players of how tough it was last season at Rodney Parade.
“Guys like [captain Ross] Moriarty and [Aaron] Wainwright are really tough.
“I will remind them about just how physical these Dragons are. If we don’t stand up to that, we will be in for a very long afternoon”
Dragons coach Dai Flanagan was happy to embrace the underdog tag and said his team will have to “go up a level” against the Stormers.
“Their squad is very strong,” he said of a side that features Springbok Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies, Marvin Orie, Salmaan Moerat, Joseph Dweba and Deon Fourie.
“They had a lot of development players in the side against the Scarlets [last week], but it didn’t change the way they play.
“They have a DNA and they challenged the Scarlets a lot.
“They have line speed in defence and play a bit more with their backline than the opposition we faced last week.
“I’m sure they’ll have some internationals back this weekend because they go to Clermont after us and, if it was me, I’d want them involved.
“We are preparing for the very best Stormers team, and we have to be ready.”
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* Meanwhile, the Bulls, on a three-match URC winning streak, will be determined to keep that momentum ahead of their debut in the European Cup next week.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White, with the experience of having coach French club Montpellier, is well aware of the enormity of Europe’s premier competition.
“We have started preparing for next week,” White told @rugby365com, adding that they first have to get past the vastly improved Cardiff outfit at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
“They have beaten two sides that finished above them last year,” he said of the Welsh region’s victories over the Stormers and Sharks.
White said the injection of some in-form Springboks – like Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Marco van Staden and Ruan Nortje – is a major boost for his team.
“It is nice to know that we have backup from the guys who have done national duty, guys who were part of that side that did so well [for the Boks] at Twickenham,” he said of last week’s impressive Test win.
“So, having our returning Boks has been great for us, because they have brought about a positive vibe into the training environment and I find that important because it helps elevate our training tempo and helps improve everyone on the park.”
Cardiff Director of Rugby Dai Young said he was pleased with the performance in a 35-0 whitewash of the Sharks last week.
“However, this week presents an even greater challenge,” Young said.
“The Bulls are a formidable side, arguably the most physical of the South African outfits, they had a good win against the Ospreys and are home at Loftus Versfeld.
“We can take some confidence and momentum into the game, but we are under no illusions of how big a challenge we face and we have to bring that same level of performance and intensity we saw last week.”
* The Lions were forced to make a late change to their starting XV for Sunday’s clash against Scarlets, after centre Henco van Wyk received a three-game suspension for foul play.
Van Wyk received a yellow card after his shoulder made contact with the head of Joe Davies in his team’s win over the Dragons last weekend.
Van Wyk will miss Sunday’s clash against the Scarlets and European Challenge Cup clashes against the Dragons and Stade Francais.
Sango Xamlashe will now wear the No.13 jersey on Sunday.
The Ellis Park-based franchise also suffered another big setback, with star loose forward Francke Horn rolled his ankle during his team’s win over the Dragons last week.
He will be sidelined for some time and will leave a massive vacancy.
On the flip side, veteran Springbok Jaco Kriel has returned from a lengthy injury lay-off and will be invaluable in terms of his experience.
“In terms of leadership. he brings a lot to the table,” backline coach Ricardo Loubscher said.
“We are looking for the composure that he brings against a quality Scarlets team.”
* All the SATURDAY and SUNDAY teams and predictions are below …
Stormers v Dragons
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 14.00; 12.00 Ireland & UK time; 12.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Stormers by 18 points
Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Tristan Leyds, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Kuyenzeka Xaba, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Kwenzo Blose.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Jacques Kotze, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Connor Evans, 20 Deon Fourie, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Kade Wolhuter, 23 Mnombo Zwelendaba.
Dragons: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Sio Tomkinson, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Max Clark, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty (captain), 7 Aaron Wainwright, 6 Huw Taylor, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Bradley Roberts,.1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 James Benjamin, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Harri Keddie, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Will Reed, 23 Aneurin Owen.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Christopher Allison (South Africa)
TMO: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
(Stadio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 Ireland & UK time; 13.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Glasgow by six points
Zebre: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 MJ Pelser, 6 Taina Fox-Matamua, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Luca Rizzoli.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Ion Neculai, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Giacomo Ferrari, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Franco Smith Jr, 23 Kobus Van Wyk.
Glasgow: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Sione Tuipulotu, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Kyle Steyn (captain), 10 Tom Jordan, 9 George Horne, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Sione Vailanu, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murphy Walker, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Lewis Bean, 21 Gregor Brown, 22 Jamie Dobie, 23 Domingo Miotti.
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
Assistant referees: Franco Rosella (Italy), Gabriel Chirnoaga (Italy)
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin (France)
Connacht v Benetton
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT; 16.15 Italy time)
@rugby365com: Connacht by 10 points
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Niall Murray, 4 Oisín Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran.
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Edoardo Padovani, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Giovanni Pettinelli, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Manuel Ziliani, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Ivan Nemer.
Replacements: 16 Lapo Frangini, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Nahuel Tetaz, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Alessandro Izekor, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Joaquin Riera, 23 Ignacio Mendy.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuisen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Douglas (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Bulls v Cardiff
(Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria – Kick-off: 20.00; 18.00 Ireland & UK time; 18.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bulls by 12 points
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 David Kriel, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Canan Moodie, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Izak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Cardiff: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Botham, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Josh Turnbull (captain), 5 Seb Davies, 4 Lopeti Timani, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 21 James Ratti, 22 Ellis Bevan, 23 Harri Millard.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
Leinster v Ulster
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Leinster by eight points
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jimmy O’Brien, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 James Ryan, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Andrew Porter, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Charlie Tector, 23 Liam Turner.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Ethan McIlroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Stewart Moore, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Marcus Rea, 6 Iain Henderson (captain), 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Reid, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Jacob Stockdale, 23 Matty Rea.
Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)
Assistant referees: Oisin Quinn (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Lions v Scarlets
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 13.30; 11.30 Ireland & UK time; 11.30 GMT)
@rugby365com: Lions by 10 points
Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Sango Xamlashe, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka, 7 Darrien Landsberg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Gianni Lombard, 23 Zander du Plessis.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Kemsley Mathias.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Sione Kalamafoni, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Steff Evans.
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Christopher Allison (South Africa)
TMO: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial