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European Champions Cup Predictions – Quarter-finals

The Bulls head to Franklin’s Gardens where they’ll fly the South African flag in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

European Champions Cup

The Bulls head to Franklin’s Gardens where they’ll fly the South African flag in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Pretoria outfit are South Africa’s last remaining hope of claiming club rugby’s greatest prize after the Stormers suffered a heart-wrenching 22-21 loss in their Round of 16 clash with two-time defending champions La Rochelle in Cape Town last weekend.

Jake White’s men take on the Northampton Saints in one of Saturday’s three last-eight encounters. Earlier in the day, Bordeaux-Begles host Harlequins at Stade Chaban-Delmas and Leinster and La Rochelle lock horns at the Aviva Stadium, while Sunday will see Toulouse tackle the Exeter Chiefs at Stade Ernest-Wallon.

Bordeaux-Begles v Harlequins

Saturday, 13 April – 16:00

Bordeaux-Begles have every right to dare to dream of a maiden Champions Cup title. Their 45-12 mauling of Saracens last weekend summed up what a strong and structured side they are. They were completely dominant and the way the halfback pairing of Maxime Lucu and Mateo Garcia runs the show makes them a well-oiled machine.

Harlequins have x-factor and know their way to the try line, but they’re not the most put-together defensive unit. They’ve been guilty of starting like a house on fire to race into a lead and allowing teams back in in the second half, as they did in their 28-24 win over the Glasgow Warriors last weekend. 

Bordeaux-Begles look to be a safe bet as they’re more disciplined and sophisticated.

Prediction: Bordeaux-Begles by 12.

Suggested Bet: Harlequins +16.5 at 1.83.

Leinster v La Rochelle

Saturday, 13 April – 18:30

The consensus two best clubs in the game battle it out in a repeat of the last two finals. On both of those occasions, Leinster were the favourites, as they are this weekend, but were edged by their French rivals. However, the Ireland giants managed a 16-9 when the sides met during the pool phase last December, setting the stage for a cracking contest.

On top of home ground advantage, United Rugby Championship log leaders Leinster are worthy favourites based on form. Leo Cullen’s charges are unbeaten this campaign and coming off an impressive 36-22 win over the Leicester Tigers, whereas La Rochelle lost two of their pool games and just squeaked past the Stormers last weekend.

Ronan O’Gara has assembled such a powerhouse team that their brute force and brilliance at the breakdown make them a rugby wrecking ball. Leinster, on the other hand, are masters of multi-phase play. The betting value is with La Rochelle, however, I believe a more clinical Leinster will come away with the win.

Prediction: Leinster by 2.

Suggested Bet: La Rochelle +8.5 at 1.83.

Northampton Saints v Bulls

Saturday, 13 April – 21:00

The Bulls looked great in their 59-19 trouncing of Lyon at Loftus Versfeld last weekend, but they face an entirely different animal on Saturday. The Saints are the form team in England, topping the Premiership standings, and are undefeated in Europe’s top-flight competition this season.

They won’t allow the Bulls the time and space on the ball that Lyon gifted them and are far better equipped to match fire with fire in the physicality department. That said, White’s troops are by no means no-hopers. They pack a considerable punch with their pack, have world-class loose forwards and sensational strike runners.

What is of concern for the men from Pretoria is their decision-making hasn’t always been the best; they’ve also been guilty of conceding some soft tries. Most importantly, they’ll have to produce an 80-minute performance if they are to pull off the upset.

Similar to the Saints’ match against Munster last weekend, which was tied at 14-all at halftime, the Bulls should be competitive but will struggle to keep up with the supremely fit hosts, especially after their travel problems, so the Saints will likely pull away down the home stretch to seal their spot in the final four. 

Prediction: Northampton Saints by 8.

Suggested Bet: Northampton Saints -3.5 at 1.84.

Toulouse v Exeter Chiefs

Sunday, 14 April – 16:00

Toulouse, not Leinster or La Rochelle, are the outright favourites to lift the trophy and they showed why in their 31-7 rout of Racing 92 last weekend. They qualified for the playoffs as the top seeds and there seems to be no slowing them down.

The Exeter Chiefs, meanwhile, had to fight tooth and nail to get past Bath, beating their fellow Premiership side 21-15. They’re a gritty team but they won’t be able to handle the total rugby of the high-flying French. 

Prediction: Toulouse by 15.

Suggested Bet: Exeter Chiefs +21.5 at 1.83.

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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