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URC, Round 17 - Teams and Predictions

PREVIEW: With just two rounds left in this season’s United Rugby Championship, teams have been closely monitoring the different permutations for play-off places.


Only four points separate leaders Glasgow Warriors from the fourth-placed Bulls.

Things start to get even tighter when you go down the standings with the fifth-placed Stormers having just two points more than eighth-placed Benetton.

The Capetonians are also just six points ahead of Connacht (ninth), who they face in Galway this weekend.

The Bulls will make completely sure of their place in the top four if they pick up a bonus point win at home this weekend.

Jake White’s side is hosting a Benetton team that was impressive in coming back from the dead to beat the Sharks last week.

The top spot will also be within the Bulls’ grasp this weekend with a win coupled with defeats for the Warriors, Leinster and Munster.


However, White knows it would be a huge mistake to underestimate a much-improved Benetton side.

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“They are an international team – a lot of those guys play for Italy,” said White.


“They did well against Ireland and England [in the Six Nations]. They are seasoned internationals.

“A lot of their game is very good. You can read into the success of their line-outs, their scrum and their transition in terms of scoring tries from turnover.

“They beat the Sharks last weekend in Durban.

“They definitely deserve to be in the top eight as they are now, so we are not taking them lightly.

“Don’t forget they beat us in the Rainbow Cup Final a couple of years ago. People thought we would go over there and beat them.

“They have signed some really good players, and the coaching staff has assembled a really good squad.

“[Head coach] Marco Bortolami has been touted to be an international coach for Italy in the future, so there is no reason to underestimate them.”

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Play-off probablity

The Lions will not only do the Bulls a favour by beating the Warriors at Ellis Park, but they can also take a significant step toward play-off qualification.

Head coach Ivan van Rooyen said his team needed 11 points from their final three games to finish in the top eight and they already got five in their win over Cardiff last weekend.

His assistant coach and scrum guru Julian Redelinghuys was under no illusions this week about the quality of their opponents despite going down the Bulls in their recent fixture.

In the same breath, Redelinghuys warned against relying on altitude as a weapon to pip Franco Smith’s team.

“They’re a well-coached team and are top of the standings; best in the tackling stats, and best in defensive stats,” said the former Springbok prop.

“The questions we have are, are they going to stick to their DNA, or try and do what Munster and Cardiff did, which is kick the ball and not want to play too much?

“From our side, if you rely on the altitude to win a game for you, you’re going to make a mistake.

“Glasgow didn’t go lay down in the last 20 minutes against the Bulls, they made a step up.”

Meanwhile, with 50 points, the Stormers are on the brink of being sure of top-eight qualification.

However, they will want to keep their hopes of a top-four finish, meaning home-ground advantage at the start of the Finals Series in June, alive by following up last week’s five-point haul against the Dragons in Newport with another.

They will know how realistic that hope is by the time their game kicks off, for the Bulls will make completely sure of their place in the top four if they pick up a bonus point win at home earlier in the afternoon.

It’s going to be a tough outing for the Stormers with Connacht treating that match like a Final to keep their play-off hopes alive.

A few stalwarts like Tiernan O’Halloran and Jarrad Butler will be playing their final game in front of the home fans. It will also be the last match in front of the famous Clan Stand before its demolition next month.

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“We are well aware of the position we are in,” said Stormers head coach John Dobson.

“There are a lot of ‘what ifs’. That Ospreys game was really expensive and that poor tour at the start as well.

“That is where we are. We know Connacht are treating it as a final.

“If they don’t win this they are gone and they are known as a team of fighters at The Sportsground.

“They are going to be absolutely desperate and so are we.

“We not only want the top seven, which is non-negotiable, but we want to finish as high as we can.

“It’s a high-pressure game.”

Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins is confident his team has what it takes to beat the Capetonians.

“The game will be a momentous occasion between departing players, potential debuts and everything happening with the Clan Stand, but first and foremost it’s a massive game that we have to win.

“URC play-off and Champions Cup qualification is what we’ll always aspire to, and now we must produce a performance that shows we deserve to reach that next stage.

“There will be a lot said about the departing players before and after the game, but it’s important to highlight how great it is to include Santi [Santiago Cordero] in the matchday 23 for the first time.

“He has shown unbelievable resilience since his injury, and it’s a testament to him and the medical team here that he’s available to us for these last two games at least.

“It’s a 23 I know is capable of delivering a performance and result fitting of the occasion, and I’m sure the thousands of fans in the Clan Stand and around the stadium will be with them for every step of the way.”

Sharks head coach John Plumtree has selected a second-string side for his team’s clash with Cardiff.

His first-choice players will be on a plane heading for London on Saturday as they prepare for their Challenge Cup Final against Gloucester next weekend.

However, Plumtree confirmed that there are still some bench spots up for grabs for that clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“We are taking 20 [players] tomorrow [Saturday], so overall, we are going to take 28 players with us.

“There are probably three players I’m looking at for bench spots.

“The 20 I’m taking have a great chance of starting [against Gloucester] and then we are looking for five players to help the team prepare over there.

“Everyone wants to be involved in a Final, so I am sure the boys want to be a part of that.

“[Sikhumbuzo] Notshe is playing his 50th game tomorrow, so it’s fantastic for him and the boys will want to play well for him.

“We’ve got some players in that group that might be playing their last game for the Sharks, so there is motivation for players across the park.”

See below for Saturday’s teams and predictions!

Saturday, May 18:

Bulls v Benetton
(Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria – Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 CEST; 12.00 GMT)


@rugby365com: Bulls by 15 points.


Bulls: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 David Kriel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Sebastian de Klerk.

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Leonardo Marin, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Eli Snyman (captain) 4 Scott Scrafton, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Destiny Aminu, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Edoardo Iachizzi, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Marco Zanon.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa) and Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Mike Adamson (South Africa)

Ospreys v Dragons
(Swansea Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)


@rugby365com: Ospreys by 12 points.


Ospreys: 15 Jack Walsh, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Dan Edwards, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Huw Sutton, 4 James Ratti, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Harri Deaves, 21 Luke Davies, 22 Max Nagy, 23 Tom Florence.

Dragons: 15 Ewan Rosser, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Aneurin Owen, 11 Chris Hollis, 10 Will Reed, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harri Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Chris Coleman, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Brodie Coghlan, 17 Rodrigo Martinez, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Ryan Woodman, 21 Morgan Lloyd, 22 Joe Westwood, 23 Sio Tomkinson.

Referee: Ben Breakspear (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ben Connor (Wales) and Jason Bessant (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)

Lions v Glasgow Warriors
(Ellis Park, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 16.05; 15.05 Ireland & UK time; 14.05 GMT)


@rugby365com: Lions by three points.


Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Marius Louw (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Morné van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Emmanuel Tshituka, 6 JC Pretorius, 5 Ruan Delport, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Ruan Venter, 21 Hanru Sirgel, 22 Sanele Nohamba, 23 Jordan Hendrikse.

Glasgow: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Kyle Steyn (captain), 13 Stafford McDowall, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Kyle Rowe, 10 Tom Jordan, 9 George Horne, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Euan Ferrie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Gregor Brown, 3 Murphy Walker, 2 Angus Fraser, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Max Williamson, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 Jack Dempsey, 22 Jamie Dobie, 23 Duncan Weir.

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Morne Ferreira (South Africa) and Hanru Van Rooyen (South Africa)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

Connacht v Stormers
(Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 17.05; 18.05 SAST; 15.05 GMT)


@rugby365com: Stormers by five points.


Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 David Hawkshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Byron Ralston, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Sean Jansen, 7 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Darragh Murray, 4 Joe Joyce, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan (captain), 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Oisín Dowling, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Cathal Forde, 23 Santiago Cordero.

Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Evan Roos, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Referee: Federico Vedovelli (Italy)
Assistant referees: Chris Busby (Ireland) and Padraic Reidy (Ireland)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)

Sharks v Cardiff
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 18.15; 17.15 IRE & UK time; 16.15 GMT)


@rugby365com: Sharks by four points.


Sharks: 15 Boeta Chamberlain, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Diego Appollis, 12 Eduan Keyter, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Tiaan Fourie, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Simon Miller, 6 Tino Mavesere, 5 Reniel Hugo (captain), 4 Corne Rahl, 3 Khwezi Mona, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Dian Bleuler.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Braam Reyneke, 18 IG Prinsloo, 19 Thomas Dyer, 20 Nick Hatton, 21 Bradley Davids, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Anthony Volmink.

Cardiff: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Gabriel Hamer-Webb, 10 Ben Thomas, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Alun Lawrence, 7 James Botham, 6 Ben Donnell, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 3 Rhys Litterick, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Tinus de Beer, 22 Jacob Beetham, 23 Mason Grady.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby (South Africa) and Stephen Geldenhuys (South Africa)
TMO: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)

Ulster v Leinster
(Ravenhill Stadium, Ulster – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)


@rugby365com: Leinster by two points.


Ulster: 15 Ethan McIlroy, 14 Mike Lowry, 13 Will Addison, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 David McCann, 6 Cormac Izuchukwu, 5 Alan O’Connor (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Tom Stewart, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Harry Sheridan, 20 Matty Rea, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Jude Postlethwaite.

Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rob Russell, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Cormac Foley, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Brian Deeny, 4 James Ryan (captain), 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 John McKee, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Thomas Clarkson, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Scott Penny, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Sam Prendergast, 23 Ben Brownlee.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Robbie Jenkinson (Ireland) and Keane Davison (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)

Additional source: @URCOfficial

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