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European Challenge Cup Predictions – Round 2

A South African derby between the Cheetahs and the Sharks headline the second round of the European Challenge Cup this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


A South African derby between the Cheetahs and the Sharks headline the second round of the European Challenge Cup this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Sunday’s battle in Bloemfontein will wrap up the round, which will see the Lions welcome the Newcastle Falcons to Ellis Park as one of five showdowns on Saturday, following Friday night’s double-header.

Scarlets v Black Lion

Friday, 15 December – 22:00

The debutants from Georgia may not have gotten the win against Gloucester last weekend, but they pushed the English visitors close. The real challenge will be away fixtures like this one. Heading into uncharted territory, Black Lion are bound to come up short.

Prediction: Scarlets by 14.

Gloucester v Clermont

Friday, 15 December – 22:00

Both teams got off to winning starts last weekend, Gloucester beating hosts Black Lion 15-10 in a war of attrition and Clermont outgunning Edinburgh 31-18 at home. The Cherry and Whites fielded an understrength side against the Georgians, though, and their rested frontline players should eke out a win over the incoming French threat.

Prediction: Gloucester by 2.

Edinburgh v Castres

Saturday, 16 December – 15:00

After failing to make the most of their chances in their away loss to Clermont last weekend, Edinburgh will aim for greater accuracy against their second French opposition in as many weeks.

Castres opened their account with a 34-16 win over an ill-disciplined Scarlets side at home, but French sides are notoriously poor travellers, so Edinburgh should be able to bounce back.

Prediction: Edinburgh by 5.

Oyonnax v Zebre

Saturday, 16 December – 15:00

For 74 minutes, Oyonnax went toe-to-toe with the Dragons in their first game back in the Challenge Cup since 2018 last weekend. Tied at 7-all, they leaked three tries at the death to go down 24-7.

Zebre weren’t competitive against the Cheetahs at all in Parma, producing their poorest showing of the season in their 33-15 loss. Soft errors proved costly, especially their abysmal handling, and hitting the road won’t help.

Having home-ground advantage should see Oyonnax get on the board.   

Prediction: Oyonnax by 7.

Benetton v Perpignan

Saturday, 16 December – 17:15

Benetton showed great fighting spirit to hit back every time their hosts the Ospreys scored last weekend until a yellow card at the death did them in.

Perpignan, in turn, we toothless against the touring Lions, failing to breach the second-string side’s line and consistently coughing up penalties to lose 28-12. This is a chance for Benetton to bank a full house and the Italians will do just that.

Prediction: Benetton by 17.

Lions v Newcastle Falcons

Saturday, 16 December – 17:15

The Lions are roaring, so much so that their second stringers got the job done in a big way last weekend. Set to revert to their ‘A’ team for this weekend’s home clash, they’re primed to continue their purple patch.

Going back to the last game their first-choice side played, the 49-25 win over the Dragons in which they were down to 14 men for 55 minutes, it highlighted not only their confidence in their game plan and structures but composure as well.

The latter is something they’d lacked for a long time and the puzzle pieces are starting to come together for the pride of Johannesburg, who’ve won four of their last five.

Bank on them to keep the good times rolling against a Falcons side who lost 24-19 to Montpellier at home last weekend. 

Prediction: Lions by 10.

Pau v Dragons

Saturday, 16 December – 19:30

After sending a ‘B’ team to Durban and getting drubbed, the real Pau will stand up on Saturday. The Dragons were made to work hard for their win by Oyonnax and finished with a flurry, however, they don’t have the firepower to get past Pau.  

Prediction: Pau by 12.

Montpellier v Ospreys

Sunday, 17 December – 15:00

Montpellier made quite the statement to bag the full five points away from home against the Falcons last weekend. The way they were able to control the game from the start and then close it out was more impressive than the Ospreys’ 43-34 home win over Benetton, which was a tit-for-tat tilt. Add in home comforts and a few boosts and the French outfit should prevail.

Prediction: Montpellier by 8.

Cheetahs v Sharks

Sunday, 17 December – 15:00

Something has to give in Bloemfontein after both teams got off to a perfect start last weekend. The Cheetahs showed no signs of rust in their 33-15 away win over Zebre, while the Sharks pummelled Pau 45-5 at home.

It leaves us with a compelling clash of styles. The Cheetahs, with Ruan Pienaar as their driving force, play a very structured, set piece-to-set piece, territory-based game whereas the Durbanites are trying to play an attacking brand of rugby under John Plumtree.

The Free Staters’ patience will be a big weapon. As they showed in Parma, they have no qualms when it comes to sticking to the plan and are adept at feeding off mistakes, of which the Sharks have been making many.

That said, the men in black found their flow in tough conditions last weekend with the centre pairing of Francois Venter and captain Lukhanyo Am at the forefront. With Eben Etzebeth leading the charge, they also upped their physicality, which I believe is where they’ll have an edge over their hosts.

Finally, the way their back three expertly dealt with the high ball was a big sign that they’ll be able to stand up to what’s in store for them in the City of Roses, leaving me confident to side with the Sharks.

Prediction: Sharks by 7.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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