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United Rugby Championship Predictions – Round 17

The hunt for playoff places intensifies in the penultimate round of the United Rugby Championship regular season this weekend.

Stormers

The hunt for playoff places intensifies in the penultimate round of the United Rugby Championship regular season this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

With South Africa’s participation in European competitions coming to an end last weekend, local teams turn their focus to qualifying for the URC quarter-finals.

The Sharks (eighth) kick-start Round 17 with a Friday night showdown with Benetton in Durban. The rest of the South African sides are in action on Saturday.

The Bulls (seventh) play host to Zebre in Pretoria, the Lions (eleventh) tackle Leinster in Johannesburg and the Stormers (second) meet Munster in Cape Town.

Sharks v Benetton

Friday, 14 April- 18:30

The Sharks gave it a good go in their European Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse until the French giants shifted into top gear in the final 15 minutes.

Defensively, the Durban side have been panicky, which has led to them conceding soft tries. The focus in the next two rounds will be to shore up and Benetton, who’re fresh off advancing to their first-ever European Challenge Cup semi-final, will ask questions with ball in hand.

Eighth and ninth on the log, it’s a crunch clash for both teams with the Sharks’ power and home-ground advantage set to prove decisive.

Prediction: Sharks by 12.

Suggested Bet: Benetton +15.5 at 1.84.

Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets

Friday, 14 April – 20:35

Scarlets are in lowly 13th position but like the fourth-placed Warriors, they’ve reached the European Challenge Cup semi-finals, so this should be a good one.

Franco Smith’s men have been unstoppable of late, are more clinical in terms of converting opportunities into points, and are superior at the breakdown, so chalk up another win for the surging Scots.   

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 9.

Suggested Bet: Scarlets +12.5 at 1.84.

Ulster v Dragons

Friday, 14 April – 20:35

Locked in a battle for second place with the Stormers, who they trail by two points, Ulster will be determined to make the most of this gimme against a Dragons side who’re out of sorts.

Slaughtered 73-33 by the Glasgow Warriors last time out and sitting second-last, the Dragons will be no match for the hosts.   

Prediction: Ulster by 28.

Suggested Bet: Ulster +25.5 at 1.84.

Bulls v Zebre

Saturday, 15 April – 13:00

When it comes to facing the winless whipping boys of the competition, complacency is the biggest issue. With the Bulls having had a torrid time in recent months, that won’t be a factor for them and the Currie Cup victory over Griquas last weekend was a welcome boost that’ll help them bag maximum points against the men from Parma to stay in the top seven.

Prediction: Bulls by 17.

Suggested Bet: Zebre +23.5 at 1.83.

Lions v Leinster

Saturday, 15 April – 16:00

The Lions have done a commendable job of not allowing the mounting off-field drama at the franchise to snuff out their desire to deliver on the pitch.

They went down fighting to the Warriors in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final in Glasgow and will have to scratch and claw for every inch this weekend.

Leinster have such great depth and are so well-drilled that this second-string side should be strong enough to see off the Lions.

Prediction: Leinster by 5.

Suggested Bet: Leinster at 2.00.

Stormers v Munster

Saturday, 15 April – 18:15

Perhaps the pick of the weekend’s games, the Stormers are all about preserving second place on the log to earn an all-important home semi-final, should they progress that far. Step one is to turn back a dangerous Munster side sitting in fifth position.

The Capetonians let themselves down with a flat performance at Sandy Park that saw them bundled out of the European Champions Cup by the Exeter Chiefs but they’re an all-conquering outfit at home.

Set-piece-wise, the Stormers are rock solid, which will allow them to lay the platform for victory, and their homecoming should see them rediscover their attacking sting to pull away from the Irish visitors.

Prediction: Stormers by 10. 

Suggested Bet: Stormers -7.5 at 1.83.

Connacht v Cardiff

Saturday, 15 April – 20:35

Both teams were knocked out of the European Challenge Cup by Benetton in their last outings and are firmly in URC playoff contention. Cardiff are 10th but as the highest-ranked Welsh team, they’ll advance if they stay at the top of their shield.

Sixth-placed Connacht have the Bulls and Sharks breathing down their necks. Ball protection has been an issue for them but they have more efficiency and firepower than Cardiff on attack. History’s also on their side with the home team winning each of the last six meetings in this rivalry.

Prediction: Connacht by 12.

Suggested Bet: Connacht -7.5 at 1.83.

Edinburgh v Ospreys

Saturday, 15 April – 20:35

After a solid start to the season, Edinburgh have been free-falling and have lost their last four to find themselves two spots below the Ospreys in 14th. Both they and the Ospreys reached the European Champions Cup Round of 16, though.

Edinburgh showed more in their 16-6 defeat to Leicester than the Welsh did in their 25-10 loss to Saracens, whom Edinburgh beat during the pool stage. Add home-ground advantage and the Scots should take it.

Prediction: Edinburgh by 7. 

Suggested Bet: Ospreys +9.5 at 1.84.

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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 SARugby.com and senior staff writer at Rugby365.com, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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