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European Champions Cup

European Champions Cup Predictions – Round 4

It’s all to play for in the final round of the European Champions Cup pool phase this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

European Champions Cup

It’s all to play for in the final round of the European Champions Cup pool phase this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Eight clubs have already secured places in the Round of 16, namely Lyon and Bordeaux-Begles from Pool 1, Toulouse, Bath and Harlequins from Pool 2, the Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs from Pool 3 and Leinster from Pool 4. For them, it’s a case of pushing for home ground advantage in the Round of 16.

The Bulls and Stormers are among the pack hunting for the eight remaining playoff spots. Both South African sides control their own destiny come Saturday.

Third in Pool 1, the Bulls host frontrunners Bordeaux, with five points between them and fifth-placed Saracens.

The Stormers, meanwhile, are in second place in Pool 4 – aka the Pool of Death – and have travelled to Paris to take on winless Stade Francais, knowing they need just two points to secure their place in the knockouts.

Glasgow Warriors v Toulon

Friday, 19 January – 22:00

Looking to preserve fourth place in Pool 3, the Glasgow Warriors will leave no stone unturned this week. Toulon are winless but still in with a shout if they take down their hosts. That threat will see Franco Smith’s men fire on all cylinders to advance.

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 12.

Suggested Bet: Glasgow Warriors -7.5 at 1.84.

Connacht v Bristol Bears

Friday, 19 January – 22:00

Connacht, winless and down in last place in Pool 1, have been found to be out of their depth and they’ll be put to bed by a capable Bristol Bears team who are in fourth position.

Prediction: Bristol Bears by 3.

Suggested Bet: Bristol Bears at 2.55.

Harlequins v Ulster

Saturday, 20 January – 15:00

Four-time Champions Cup quarter-finalists Harlequins are once again into the knockout stage of the competition following wins over Racing 92 and Cardiff. Ulster have underperformed, managing just one win from their three fixtures, and are coming off a 48-24 thumping at the hands of Toulouse. Bank on Quins to win this one.

Prediction: Harlequins by 7.

Suggested Bet: Ulster +7.5 at 1.83.

Bulls v Bordeaux-Begles

Saturday, 20 January – 15:00

The Bulls have set themselves up perfectly to qualify for the playoffs thanks to their excellent 31-17 win over the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate last weekend.

The victory spoke both to the shrewd recruitment of Jake White and the hunger of the second-string players to perform with the men from Pretoria hardly feeling the absence of their current Springboks. As a result, they need just a single log point to book their place in the Round of 16.

Bordeaux-Begles have been brilliant so far, winning all three of their matches against Connacht, the Bristol Bears and Saracens. All three victories have come with bonus points and see them top Pool 1 with a three-point cushion over next-best Lyon. Boasting a superior points’ difference of 82 over their fellow TOP 14 club means they only need two log points to guarantee they finish first.

It’ll be a tough ask if the French side are fully loaded, but either way, the Bulls should have enough firepower to get the win.

Prediction: Bulls by 5.

Suggested Bet: Bordeaux-Begles +8.5 at 1.85.

Racing 92 v Cardiff

Saturday, 20 January – 17:15

The two teams at the bottom of Pool 2 tussle in Paris. A win could see either side snatch the last qualifying spot from Ulster if the Irish club lose away to Harlequins, so this is no dead rubber.

Racing 92 have more weapons in their arsenal, including double World Cup-winning Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, and they’ll give their home fans something to cheer about.  

Prediction: Racing 92 by 19.

Suggested Bet: Cardiff +28.5 at 1.83.

Leicester Tigers v Leinster

Saturday, 20 January – 17:15

Unbeaten Leinster have top spot in Pool 4 on lock, so they could opt to send a second-string outfit to England to end the pool phase. After being trounced by La Rochelle, the Tigers need a win to guarantee they move on, so they’ll be going all out. Having said that, Leinster have such depth that they should still be able to come away with the win.

Prediction: Leinster by 3.

Suggested Bet: Leicester Tigers +8.5 at 1.84.

Stade Francais v Stormers

Saturday, 20 January – 19:30

The Stormers showed glimpses of their sharp attacking edge that propelled them to United Rugby Championship glory but also made seeing off a depleted Sale Sharks side harder than it should’ve been last weekend.

Regardless, they’ll back themselves to get at least the two log points required to reach the Round of 16 against a Stade Francais team who’ve lost all three of their games (28-5 to Sale, 27-24 to Leicester at home and 43-7 to Leinster last weekend.

I’m super tempted to go with the Stormers, but they have such a poor touring record – including a winless four-week excursion in the URC this season – that I’m tipping their hosts to prevail in Paris. The Capetonians won’t go down wondering, though, and should pick up the two points they need to stay in the competition.

Prediction: Stade Francais by 2.

Suggested Bet: Stade Francais at 2.70.

Munster v Northampton Saints

Saturday, 20 January – 19:30

The Northampton Saints have picked up three wins from three so far, defeating the Glasgow Warriors and Toulon and mauling Bayonne 61-14 last weekend to not just book their place in the Round of 16 but also ensure home ground advantage.

With the English club having little to gain then, Munster will have greater motivation, which on top of momentum and home comforts, should see the Irish club come out on top.  

Prediction: Munster by 6.

Suggested Bet: Northampton Saints +10.5 at 1.83.

Saracens v Lyon

Saturday, 20 January – 22:00

Lyon may have suffered a narrow loss at Bristol Bears in Round One, but they picked up two bonus points at Ashton Gate that proved key to their qualification. Successive bonus point wins at home against the Bulls and Connacht mean they have momentum against a Saracens side who have none after being battered 55-15 by Bordeaux-Begles.

A different team at home, where they crushed Connacht 55-36, and fighting for survival, Saracens will be the hungrier outfit and that should see them get the W and punch their ticket to the playoffs.

Prediction: Saracens by 4.

Suggested Bet: Lyon +18.5 at 1.83.

Sale Sharks v La Rochelle

Sunday, 21 January – 15:00

With fourth-placed La Rochelle on seven points and fifth-placed Sale on five, the winner of this one will likely move on. The Sharks will be bolstered by a few players returning from illness and injury and showed against the Stormers the fight that exists in the group. However, the visitors are at their best when the pressure is on, and they’ll prevail to keep their title defence alive.

Prediction: La Rochelle by 9.

Suggested Bet: La Rochelle -6.5 at 1.83.

Toulouse v Bath

Sunday, 21 January – 17:15

The record winners of the Champions Cup, Toulouse have qualified for the Round of 16 with a dominant trio of bonus point victories over Cardiff, Harlequins and Ulster.

Winners of the competition back in 1997-98, Bath have penned their name in the Round of 16 with three bonus point victories of their own over Ulster, Cardiff and Racing 92 to set up a tilt between the top two teams in Pool 2.

Toulouse have looked imperious and as good as Bath have been, I’d be stunned if they pulled off the upset. The smart money is on the French giants to keep the good times going.

Prediction: Toulouse by 15.

Suggested Bet: Bath +17.5 at 1.83.

Bayonne v Exeter Chiefs

Sunday, 21 January – 19:30

With three comeback wins – over Toulon, Munster and the Glasgow Warriors respectively – in three rounds, the Exeter Chiefs have also secured their spot in the Round of 16. Last weekend’s 61-14 slaying by the Saints made it clear that debutants Bayonne have run their race, and they’ll finish their campaign winless.

Prediction: Exeter Chiefs by 14.

Suggested Bet: Exeter Chiefs -2.5 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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