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URC, Round Six - teams and predictions

FRIDAY PREVIEW: It is a severely depleted Stormers team that will send the ‘next generation’ into battle against a challenging Cardiff outfit in the Welsh capital on Friday.

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The Capetonians are on a three-game losing streak – their worst-ever sequence in the URC – and in Cardiff they will be facing the only Welsh team they have lost to so far in the competition.

Although Cardiff have won just one home game in the URC in the past 12 months – by 30-13 against Benetton in February – they have beaten the Stormers before.

In fact, the Stormers’ only defeat to a Welsh region was 24-30 on their only previous visit to the Arms Park to face Cardiff in October 2022.

Stormers coach John Dobson is also battling a growing injury crisis – having only 24 fit players on tour.

A substantial chunk of the Stormers’ senior corps that featured against Munster last week were unavailable this week due to injury – including Gary Porter, Ben-Jason Dixon, Evan Roos, Angelo Davids and Joseph Dweba.

Wing Leolin Zas is being rested.

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The biggest losses are in the second row.

Already without captain Salmaan Moerat and departed Springbok Marvin Orie, they have lost another two locks to injury in the build-up to their trip to Arms Park encounter with Cardiff on Friday. Porter, who sustained an ankle injury early in last week’s 3-10 loss to Munster at Thomond Park and was replaced after six minutes, has returned home. Dixon has also been ruled out with an undisclosed injury.

Ruben van Heerden and Adre Smith start in the second row, with recently signed utility forward Hendré Stassen flown in as cover for the Cardiff outing.

Porter will be sidelined for a ‘month or two’, with Davids sidelined for three or four weeks.

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However, the rest are all one or two weeks from returning. Dweba is sidelined for ‘family reasons’.

Dobson said their goal was to win two games on tour, which they have failed to do.

“Now it has become a case of us showing that we have depth in the next tier of players to compete in this competition,” Dobson told @rugby365com.

“It is an opportunity for us to see how depth we have in the next generation – players like Sacha [Feinberg-Mngomezulu], Marcel [Theunissen], Nama [Xaba], Andre-Hugo [Venter] and Keke [Morabe].

“This is their opportunity,” he said, adding that it has been a long tour and this is a crucial game for the Stormers.

“We need to get those five points.

“We know that we face a big challenge at Arms Park, but it is one we are looking forward to taking on.

“I want us to go and get the win and see guys like that play really well so we can say: ‘The cupboard is well-stocked and we have a lekker future’.

“I do think we have a good future,” the coach said.

(WATCH as Stormers coach John Dobson tells @king365ed what the team’s goals are in their URC Round Six encounter with Cardiff…)

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Cardiff is also struggling for consistency – with a loss to Benetton (22-23 at home), a win over the Dragons (16-9 away), a loss to Scarlets (25-31 away), a loss to the Bulls (12-18 at home) and an even more disappointing draw against Zebre (22-all in Parma).

“We were disappointed with the draw last week and felt the players deserved more,” Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt said.

“However, that’s sport and you do not always get what you deserve.

“Given the manner in which the game finished, the boys have been chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch.

“We have fond memories of facing the Stormers at the Arms Park a year ago and are hoping for another good Friday crowd with a great atmosphere,” he said of the 30-24 victory in October last year.

“The Stormers are a quality team and they will be determined to finish their four games on the road with a victory,” Sherratt said.

“They play a really high-risk, high-reward game, which will put pressure on us and test our skill set so we will need to be really accurate.

“We are all really looking forward to the challenge and will do everything possible to give our home crowd something to get behind and hopefully celebrate.”

* In the other Friday match Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie will become Edinburgh’s 40th centurion when the capital side faces Benetton.

Ritchie – who joined the Scottish outfit straight from school at the age of 17 – made his Edinburgh debut in 2014 and has spent the entirety of his professional career in the Scottish capital, where he has developed into one of the game’s brightest back row talents and national team captain.

Joining capital greats and living legends such as Simon Taylor and Roddy Grant in the centurions club, Ritchie will reach the milestone wearing club socks from two sides that played a pivotal role in his development – Madras College and Howe of Fife RFC.

On Ritchie’s landmark appearance, coach Sean Everitt, said: “Jamie was a true warrior against Bulls last weekend and it’s clear he’s a player who commands respect across the dressing room.

“We’re delighted to see him reach 100 appearances for his boyhood club in front of the Edinburgh supporters.

“I know there will be extra motivation for the squad to make it a special night for Jamie and they will be playing for him, as well as the fans that will be packing out the stadium.”

Benetton coach Marco Bortolami said: “The match in Edinburgh will in many ways be quite similar to the one played against Glasgow.

“They are a team that bases their game on set pieces, scrums, touche and in these phases it will be a very important clash to have dominion over the control of the pitch and game situations.”

All the FRIDAY (November 24) teams and predictions follow below

Cardiff v Stormers
(Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 21.35 SA time; 19.35 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Stormers by six points

Cardiff-v-Stormers-2023-form

Teams

Cardiff: 15 Cam Winnett, 14 Harri Millard, 13 Willis Halaholo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Mason Grady, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Will Davies-King, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Rhys Litterick, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Jacob Beetham, 23 Gabriel Hamer-Webb.

Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 11 Ben Loader, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Marcel Theunissen, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 2 Andre-Hugo Venter, 1 Brok Harris (captain).
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Connor Evans, 20 Hendré Stassen, 21 Keke Morabe, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dewi Phillips (Wales); Carwyn Williams (Wales)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Edinburgh v Benetton
(Edinburgh Stadium, – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 21.35 SA time; 19.35 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Edinburgh by 12 points

Edinburgh-v-Benetton-2023-form

Teams

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Currie, 12 James Lang, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Ali Price, 8 Luke Crosbie, 7 Connor Boyle, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Glen Young, 3 WP Nel, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Angus Williams, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Chris Dean.

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Ignacio Mendy, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Edoardo Iachizzi, 3 Giosué Zilocchi, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Henry Time-Stowers, 22 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 23 Giacomo Da Re.

Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ian Kenny (Scotland); David Sutherland (Scotland)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial

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