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Champions Cup Rugby

European Champions Cup Predictions – Round 4

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

Dragons v Bulls

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

The Sharks have already booked their place in the Round of 16 while the Bulls and Stormers are on the cusp of claiming two of the eight remaining spots.

Leinster, the Sharks, Saracens, Exeter Chiefs and Edinburgh are the Pool A sides who’ve already ensured their progression with Toulouse, La Rochelle and Leicester Tigers joining them from Pool B. They’ll vie for top seeding and home-ground advantage while the rest battle it out for survival.

The Bulls kick off the action against French hosts Lyon on Friday night. The coastal franchises are in action on Saturday, the Sharks away to Harlequins and the Stormers at home against TOP 14 side Clermont.

Lyon v Bulls

Friday, 20 January – 22:00

The emphatic 39-28 victory over the Exeter Chiefs last weekend left the Bulls on the brink of reaching the Round of 16. Sitting sixth in Pool A on 10 points, they are five ahead of Racing 92 and Gloucester, who’re eighth and ninth respectively. Odds are both of those clubs will lose their away games to Leinster and Bordeaux.

On the other hand, the Bulls are one point behind fourth-placed Exeter and fifth-placed Edinburgh, and three behind Saracens, and with the latter away to Edinburgh this weekend, the men from Pretoria could move up a peg. Lyon have been found wanting in the top flight, losing all three of their fixtures. They’re 10th with just three points but can still sneak through, so it’s no dead rubber for them.

A look at their two ties with Saracens offers insights into their varying competitiveness home and away. They lost by eight at home (28-20) and 20 away (48-28) last weekend. The Bulls’ second-stringers turned them back 42-36 in the opening round but it’ll be a tougher task this time around.

They’ll be made to work hard, but the strength of the pack and strike power out wide will see the Bulls prevail.

Prediction: Bulls by 7.

Suggested Bet: Bulls at 2.10

Leicester Tigers v Ospreys

Friday, 20 January – 22:00

The Ospreys are the surprise package of the season. The only Welsh team in the tournament completed a historic double over Montpellier last weekend and find themselves in fifth place in Pool B.

The trip to Leicester is a daunting one, though, as an unbeaten Tigers team who roared to a 44-29 away win over Clermont last weekend lie in wait. The return of Handre Pollard has given them even more bite and will take them to a much more emphatic win than the 23-17 success in Swansea.

Prediction: Leicester Tigers by 12.

Suggested Bet: Leicester Tigers -11.5 at 1.84.

Northampton Saints v La Rochelle

Saturday, 21 January – 15:00

The Saints have been proven to be out of their depth and the winless Pool B basement dwellers won’t trouble the defending champions. While they’re unbeaten and second in the pool, La Rochelle’s last-gasp 7-3 win over Ulster was a serious wake-up and it’ll spur them on to avoid complacency.

Prediction: La Rochelle by 15

Suggested Bet: Northampton Saints +18.5 at 1.84

Harlequins v Sharks

Saturday, 21 January – 15:00

The Durban franchise put a premium on their debut season in the European Champions Cup from the get-go and it’s all hands on deck with Neil Powell selecting his strongest possible touring party in the hopes of completing the pool phase unbeaten and cementing home games in the Round of 16 and quarterfinals, should they advance to the last eight.

Second in Pool A, one point adrift log leaders Leinster, the Sharks know they’re in for a real challenge after bashing Bordeaux 32-3 as they go from the heat and humidity of Durban to the cold of south-west London against a Harlequins side who’re hurting after their heart-breaking 30-29 away loss to Racing 92.

Just like in the first fixture against the Sharks, which the hosts won 39-31, seventh-placed Quins started poorly last weekend and staged a remarkable fightback only to fall agonisingly short in the end. Therefore, expect the Sharks to pile on the pressure in the first quarter.

With the explosiveness and pedigree of their Springbok-laden pack and Curwin Bosch back in the saddle, the Sharks should leave the Stoop with a hard-fought win.

Prediction: Sharks by 5.

Suggested Bet: Sharks at 2.35

Bordeaux v Gloucester

Saturday, 21 January – 17:15

Gloucester edged the first encounter 22-17 for their only win to stay in the hunt in ninth in Pool A. Winless Bordeaux basically conceded their rematch with the Sharks by sending a B team to Durban.

It leaves one wondering if they’d already written off their campaign as the 32-3 drubbing left them second from bottom with just two points. They were solid in their home game against the Sharks, taking the Springbok-laden visitors to the limit in a 19-16 defeat, and with their stars having rested, I’m backing Bordeaux to sign off with a narrow win.

Prediction: Bordeaux by 5.

Suggested Bet: Gloucester +5.5 at 1.82

Leinster v Racing 92

Saturday, 21 January – 17:15

Leinster have claimed the maximum 15 log points from their three matches, including routing Racing 42-10 in Paris, and if not for the Sharks and Saracens – who’re both on 14 – the Pool A leaders may have fallen into the trap of resting on their laurels. The Irish giants need a fourth bonus-point win to cement the number one spot and they’ll power to it. The forecast of light rain has me leaning to the visitors on the plus.

Prediction: Leinster by 17

Suggested Bet: Racing 92 +18.5 at 1.85

Stormers v Clermont

Saturday, 21 January – 19:30

A single log point should be enough for the Stormers, who’re fourth in Pool B, to advance to the Round of 16, but they’ll aim to do it in style.

The Stormers haven’t forgotten how Clermont spoiled their European Champions Cup debut and will be out to avenge that 24-14 loss. The Capetonians led by 11 at the break before dropping off in the second half, something they were guilty of again against 13-man London Irish last weekend. The emphasis will therefore be on producing an 80-minute performance.

Clermont have lost four of their five games since their win over the Stormers and were mauled 44-29 by Leicester at home last weekend, which led to coach Jono Gibbs being sacked on Monday. Hoping to cling onto eighth position, they’ll put up a fight, but a locked-in Stormers side playing at home will claim a comfortable win to book their last-16 berth.

Prediction: Stormers by 16.

Suggested Bet: Stormers -14.5 at 1.81

Exeter Chiefs v Castres

Saturday, 21 January – 19:30

Castres have had the most miserable campaign of all. Still on a big, fat zero, they’ve lost by double digits in all three of their games and won’t be competitive against an Exeter team eager to bounce back from defeat to the Bulls and hoping to possibly move from fourth to second if other results also go their way.

Prediction: Exeter Chiefs by 22.

Suggested Bet: Castres +26.5 at 1.83

Ulster v Sale Sharks

Saturday, 21 January – 22:00

In contrast to Castres, Ulster picked up three bonus points in their three losses to have a faint chance of sneaking through the back door. Sale, on five, are one place above them in ninth and a single point outside of the top eight. 

Ulster have come a long way from their 39-0 humiliation by the self-same Sharks to being moments away from beating La Rochelle. However, after throwing absolutely everything at the defending champions, I don’t see them having enough left in the tank to gain revenge against Sale.

Prediction: Sale Sharks by 5

Suggested Bet: Sale Sharks at 2.75

Montpellier v London Irish

Sunday, 22 January – 15:00

The TOP 14 champions, who’re seventh in Pool B with seven points, owe it to their home fans to get back on the horse after the double disappointment against the Ospreys and they’ll ride that stallion into the last 16 with a solid win over a London Irish side whose lone point came in the 32-25 loss in the teams’ first meeting.

Prediction: Montpellier by 18

Suggested Bet: London Irish +20.5 at 1.82

Toulouse v Munster

Sunday, 22 January – 17:15

One hosts six in Pool B. Munster showed their desire to move on by overcoming Jack O’Donoghue’s red card to clinch a 27-23 win over the Northampton Saints and they’ll need even more spirit to topple Toulouse at home.

Toulouse have been perfect up to this point, winning three from three to top Pool B on 13. However, with a superior points difference of just eight over La Rochelle, who’re also on 13, they’re in danger of being pipped to the post with their TOP 14 rivals expected to get a full house from their trip to Northampton.

That’ll bring the best out of the six-time champions and inspire them to a hard-earned double-digit win. 

Prediction: Toulouse by 10.

Suggested Bet: Munster +15.5 at 1.86

Edinburgh v Saracens

Sunday, 22 January – 19:30

A humdinger wraps up the pool stage in the Scottish capital with the fifth-placed hosts (11) battling the third-placed visitors (14) in Pool A.

As their log positions suggest, Saracens have shown that crucial extra bit of quality that separates true title challengers from other knockout qualifiers like Edinburgh, and that’ll be the difference here.

Prediction: Saracens by 3.

Suggested Bet: Edin burgh +5.5 at 1.85

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    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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