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European Champions Cup Predictions – Round 1

The Bulls and Stormers will seek to hit the ground running when the European Champions Cup gets underway this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


The Bulls and Stormers will seek to hit the ground running when the European Champions Cup gets underway this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The cream of the crop from England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Wales and South Africa will vie for the silverware in the ultimate club rugby competition in the world.

The competition sees a return to a multi-pool format featuring 24 elite clubs – eight each from the Gallagher Premiership, United Rugby Championship and TOP 14 – in four pools of six with each club playing against four different opponents home or away in the pool stage.

The competition will be played over eight weekends with four pool stage rounds and four knockout stage rounds culminating in the 2024 final, which will be staged at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, 25 May.

The Bulls will get the South African challenge underway when they welcome Saracens to Pretoria on Saturday while the Stormers start their campaign with an away assignment against the Leicester Tigers.

Glasgow Warriors v Northampton Saints

Friday, 8 December – 22:00

Glasgow (joint-11th outright at 51.00) might be coming off a loss to Munster, but that away from home and only their second reverse of the URC season. Second in the league, Franco Smith’s men have been fantastic and are unbeaten at home, including a dazzling 43-25 win over Leinster.

Northampton (14th outright at 81.00) have won five of their last six matches in the Premiership, so they won’t be pushovers, however, the Warriors should be too strong for them.  

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 11.

Suggested Bet: Glasgow Warriors -7.5 at 1.82.

Connacht v Bordeaux-Begles

Friday, 8 December – 22:00

Hurting after Leinster scored a last-gasp try to end their near-year-long unbeaten streak at home, Connacht (joint-15th outright at 101.00) will be out to defend their turf against their French threat. The Irish outfit have impressed in the URC this season and will be tough to beat at home.

Bordeaux-Begles (joint-eighth outright at 29.00) have been a middle-of-the-road side in the TOP 14 this season. add the fact that French teams generally don’t travel well, and Connacht should come away with the win.

Prediction: Connacht by 7.

Suggested Bet: Connacht -4.5 at 1.81.

Toulon v Exeter Chiefs

Saturday, 9 December – 15:00

Former champions face off in this fascinating fixture. Toulon clinched their maiden European Challenge Cup in May to earn their place back in this season’s competition, which they won three seasons on the bounce between 2013 and 2015. 

Exeter, meanwhile, were beaten semi-finalists in last season’s tournament, falling to eventual winners La Rochelle, but lifted the trophy in 2020. 

In addition to playing at home, Toulon (seventh outright at 19.00) have the better domestic form, having won four on the bounce in the TOP 14 while the Chiefs (12th outright at 66.00) are 2-2 in their last four Premiership games.

Toulon have also won the two ties between these sides and should keep that winning record intact.

Prediction: Toulon by 12.

Suggested Bet: Toulon -11.5 at 1.81.

Bath v Ulster

Saturday, 9 December – 17:15

Bath (joint-11th outright at 51.00) have been the business in the Premiership, sitting second, and are fresh off a convincing 41-24 win over Exeter. They have only lost one match at home this season and that was by one point to Leicester. 

Ulster (ninth outright at 34.00) are still struggling to find their rhythm and have lost two on the trot, away to Glasgow (33-20) and home to Edinburgh (27-24) last weekend, so Bath should bank the win.

Prediction: Bath by 5.

Suggested Bet: Ulster +6.5 at 1.85.

Toulouse v Cardiff

Saturday, 9 December – 17:15

In the first mismatch of the competition, Toulouse (third outright at 5.00) are primed to cruise past Cardiff (joint-last outright at 251.00). The hosts are considered strong title contenders whereas the visitors will struggle to get a win, so bank on an emphatic victory for Toulouse.

Prediction: Toulouse by 28.

Suggested Bet: Toulouse -26.5 at 1.82.

Bulls v Saracens

Saturday, 9 December – 19:30

The Bulls will be looking to improve on their last-16 appearance on their Champions Cup debut last season and have drawn a decorated opponent first up.

Saracens are three-time tournament winners, their last triumph coming in 2019, and will be determined to improve on their quarter-final exit last season.   

As Premiership champions, they are the highest ranked of the English contingent at fourth outright (10.00) and have a well-balanced side. Fourth in the current Premiership campaign with a record of 5-3, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

That said, the Bulls (10th outright at 36.00) are in good form, sitting third in the URC and coming off a commanding 44-10 win over the Sharks last weekend, their third in a row at home, and having bolstered their squad with a number of players with European experience will strengthen their cause.

They are dynamic, have a hard-working pack, lethal backs and boast enviable cohesion. Starting at home, this is a must-win for them and based on their form and strengths, you have to back them to do the business on the Highveld.

Prediction: Bulls by 7.

Suggested Bet: Bulls -5.5 at 1.82.

Munster v Bayonne

Saturday, 9 December – 19:30

The other mismatch of the opening round. Munster (fifth outright at 13.00) are starting to hit their straps and scored a statement win over the Glasgow Warriors last weekend.

Bayonne (joint-last outright at 251.00) are yet to win away from home domestically and will struggle to be competitive in the Champions Cup. They’re in for a lashing in Limerick.  

Prediction: Munster by 18.

Suggested Bet: Bayonne +21.5 at 1.86.

Bristol Bears v Lyon

Saturday, 9 December – 22:00

Challenge Cup winners two seasons ago, Lyon (13th outright at 67.00) had a rough return to the top flight with just one win at home over the Bulls. They have some solid weapons in the backline, like Georgian ace Davit Niniashvili and new signing Semi Radradra, who they snatched from the Bears (joint-15th outright at 101.00). However, they’ll battle to match Bristol’s pack and I see it being won and lost up front.

Prediction: Bristol Bears by 6.

Suggested Bet: Lyon +6.5 at 1.85.

Sale Sharks v Stade Francais

Sunday, 10 December – 15:00

Sale (joint-ninth outright at 29.00) are leading the way in the Premiership with a record of 6-2. Packed with explosive power, the Sharks’ athleticism and confidence make them a tough nut to crack.

Sixth in the TOP 14 with a record of 8-5, Stade Francais (joint-15th outright at 101.00) are inconsistent at best and poor on the road, so chalk this one up for the hosts.

Prediction: Sale Sharks by 12.

Suggested Bet: Sale Sharks -10.5 at 1.82.

La Rochelle v Leinster

Sunday, 10 December – 17:15

La Rochelle start their title defence against last season’s beaten finalists in an absolute blockbuster between the two top seeds.

The French outfit (second outright at 4.30) battled from 17 points down to stun Leinster 27-26 in Dublin and lift the coveted trophy for the second consecutive season and plan on piling more misery on their Irish rivals.

Leinster (first outright at 3.75) have been beaten finalists three times in the last five years and are aiming to win the competition for the first time since 2018. This is about revenge for URC leaders, who edged Connacht 24-22 last weekend in their first match since the arrival of former World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.

La Rochelle, who are coming off a 35-6 win over Perpignan, have had Leinster’s number in recent years, which along with home ground advantage, make them the pick to win a humdinger.

Prediction: La Rochelle by 3.

Suggested Bet: La Rochelle at 1.95.

Leicester Tigers v Stormers

Sunday, 10 December – 17:15

The draw wasn’t kind to the Stormers. For the second year in a row, they start their campaign away from home and to make matters worse, they’ve been grouped in the Pool of Death alongside Leicester, Sale, Leinster, La Rochelle and Stade Francais.

That the Capetonians are sixth outright at 17.00 is a bit surprising to me considering their woeful touring record and tough draw. John Dobson’s men were able to snap a four-match losing streak with a 31-7 win over Zebre last weekend but were disjointed and failed to inspire confidence that they can trump the Tigers in their backyard.

The Tigers, who are joint-ninth outright at 29.00, don’t have the X-factor the Stormers possess but they have power and poise in abundance. Piloted by Handre Pollard, their tactical nous at home will be too much for the Stormers to handle, especially considering the visitors are yet to gel and struggled under the high ball last weekend.    

Prediction: Leicester Tigers by 10.

Suggested Bet: Leicester Tigers -9.5 at 1.88.

Racing 92 v Harlequins

Sunday, 10 December – 19:30

Two teams on good domestic runs collide to close out the opening round. Racing 92 (sixth outright at 17.00), with double World Cup-winning Springbok captain Siya Kolisi in their ranks, top the TOP 14 table while Harlequins (joint-ninth outright at 29.00) are third in the Premiership. It should be a quality game in which home ground advantage proves decisive.

Prediction: Racing 92 by 5.

Suggested Bet: Harlequins +8.5 at 1.86.

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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