Connect with us


United Rugby Championship Predictions – Round 18

It’s all to play for in the final round of the United Rugby Championship regular season this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

United Rugby Championship

It’s all to play for in the final round of the United Rugby Championship regular season this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Six teams have already qualified for the playoffs, leaving two spots up for grabs, and the top four have been finalised with Munster (63), the Bulls (61), Leinster (60) and the Glasgow Warriors (60) set to host quarter-finals.

However, each of these four sides could finish at the top of the table to earn home ground advantage throughout the knockouts, setting up the first compelling shootout.

Just four points separate sixth-placed Ulster (53) and the ninth-placed Lions (49) in the second shootout, with 10th and 11th-placed Connacht and Ospreys (both on 45) also still having a slight chance of progressing to the playoffs.

There’s also the matter of securing the final European Champions Cup qualifying place (the Sharks have snapped up the other) as well as the South African Shield, which will either be won by the Bulls or the Stormers, and the Irish Shield, which will either be won by Ulster or Leinster.

The Warriors need just a single log point to clinch the Scottish/Italian Shield while the Ospreys have already won the Welsh Shield.

Leinster v Connacht

Friday, 31 May – 20:35

Following their third consecutive European Champions Cup final heartbreak last weekend, an angry Leinster will look to take out their frustrations on little brother Connacht.

Sitting third, three points behind log-leading Munster, Leo Cullen’s charges will be instructed to secure nothing less than a full house, which will see them extend their winning streak in this rivalry to eight.

Prediction: Leinster by 19.

Suggested Bet: Leinster -17 at 1.85.

Glasgow Warriors v Zebre

Friday, 31 May – 20:35

Similar to Leinster, the Warriors are seething after dropping from first to fourth place following their 44-21 loss to the Lions in the previous round.

There’s not much to analyse here as Franco Smith’s men are in a different stratosphere to Zebre, whose long season that’s yielded just a solitary win will end with one final heavy defeat, which will see Glasgow lift the Scottish/Italian Shield.

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 26.

Suggested Bet: Zebre +30.5 at 1.93.

Stormers v Lions

Saturday, 1 June – 13:45

The Stormers (54) will have to be at their best to preserve their place in fifth position and stave off a Lions side in do-or-die mode.

The pride of Johannesburg were the last South African team to beat the Capetonians on their home turf two-and-a-half years ago and require an inspired bonus-point win and other results to go their way to move up to seventh (and earn a place in next season’s European Champions Cup) or eighth.

The Stormers may not be able to improve their overall log position, however, they’re hoping to retain the South African Shield. Trailing the pacesetting Bulls by three points, they need a victory to put pressure on the men from Pretoria.

John Dobson’s men showed growth and good game management to win both of their crucial last two tour games (44-21 against the Dragons and 16-12 against Connacht) and the latter will be especially key against Ivan van Rooyen’s troops.

Given that the Lions like a fast-paced, expansive game, it’s easy for sides to get sucked into an open game especially if they have the X-factor players to fight fire with fire like the Stormers do. The smarter option, as teams like Munster and the Warriors showed, is to outmuscle the Lions with a structured approach and earn the right to go wide.

The Lions have incredible heart, which will be on full display with their season on the line, but the Stormers’ strength and intelligence will see them deny the die-hard visitors.

Prediction: Stormers by 8.

Suggested Bet: Stormers -4 at 1.88.

Benetton v Edinburgh

Saturday, 1 June – 14:00

The seventh and eighth-placed teams (both on 49) face off in Treviso. Both sides are coming off losses, Benetton away to the Bulls (56-35) and higher-placed Edinburgh to Munster at home (29-26).

The Italians are a different team at home, where they’ve lost just one of their 12 games in all competitions this season, while they’ve also won the last two encounters in this rivalry, so they should edge it.

Prediction: Benetton by 2.

Suggested Bet: Edinburgh +3 at 1.82.

Scarlets v Dragons

Saturday, 1 June – 16:00

No.14 hosts No.15 in the first of the Welsh derbies. The Scarlets have managed one more win than their countrymen this season with four and have momentum on their side following their 32-18 victory over Zebre last time out.

The Dragons did pip the Scarlets 13-12 in January but they’re on a four-match losing streak and, more tellingly, they haven’t won a single game away from home this season, so bank on a Scarlets win.

Prediction: Scarlets by 5.

Suggested Bet: Dragons +5.5 at 1.87.

Sharks v Bulls

Saturday, 1 June – 16:10

As professionals, players have a level of commitment to every game, but it’s safe to say the Bulls will want to win this one more given they have more to play for.

Trailing table-topping Munster by a single point, the Pretoria outfit will go all out for a bonus point win to possibly finish the league phase in pole position, while a victory of any kind will earn them their maiden South African Shield title.

The 13th-placed Sharks, in turn, have only pride to play for and literally played their final last Friday, clinching the European Challenge Cup and a spot in Europe’s top flight with a 36-22 win over Gloucester. They could opt to rest their Springboks as well.

Either way, a more driven Bulls should depart Durban with a win thanks to their total game.

Prediction: Bulls by 7.

Suggested Bet: Sharks +15.5 at 1.82.

Munster v Ulster

Saturday, 1 June – 18:15

The second of the Irish derbies is a playoff-quality clash that’ll show a lot about the teams’ aptitude for knockout rugby.

Munster will be determined to cement their place at the top of the table, while sixth-placed Ulster will seek to send a message to the other title contenders and secure the Irish Shield – where they hold a two-point lead over next-best Leinster – by taking down the defending champions.

Having won the last meeting between the teams 21-14 in November, Ulster will back themselves. However, Munster have a ton of momentum, have found their attacking flow and are more proficient at the breakdown, on top of having home ground advantage, all of which should see them come out on top. 

Prediction: Munster by 7.

Suggested Bet: Ulster +14 at 1.84.

Cardiff v Ospreys

Saturday, 1 June – 18:30

The top two Welsh regions wrap of their campaigns in the capital. The Ospreys have an unassailable seven-point buffer over their next-best hosts in the Welsh Shield and odds are they’ll show their superiority here.

They know how to defeat the Cardiff crew as well, having won six of the last seven clashes between the two, including a 27-21 triumph in January, so my money’s on the Ospreys in a tight one.

Prediction: Ospreys by 3.

Suggested Bet: Cardiff +5.5 at 1.84.

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.

More in Rugby