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United Rugby Championship Predictions – Round 8

Festive season derbies are on deck in the United Rugby Championship this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Festive season derbies are on deck in the United Rugby Championship this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

South African rugby supporters are used to spending Boxing Day taking in some Test cricket, but the URC is offering some oval ball goodness as well.

No local teams will be in action, however, there’s a number of pre-and post-Christmas crackers in-store to get excited about. The action kicks off in Parma, where Italian minnows Zebre will look to break their duck against Benetton on Friday night. 

It’s off to Wales on Sunday as Cardiff square off against the Scarlets before the spotlight shifts to Ireland, where Ulster will have a chip on their shoulder when they take on Connacht.

Unfortunately, Covid has put paid to the other two ties scheduled for Sunday, with new outbreaks in the Ospreys and Leinster camps resulting in the postponement of their meetings with the Dragons and Munster respectively.

Fans, though, are set for a special Monday Night lights edition of the Scottish showdown between the Warriors and Edinburgh in Glasgow.

Zebre Parma v Benetton

Friday, 24 December – 15:00

The Italian derby is the most clear-cut clash of the round with Zebre Parma’s problems persisting. Michael Bradley’s men remain the only winless team in the tournament and collected just a single log point in their five fixtures, while Benetton has banked three wins from seven.

The underdog hosts will look to last year’s PRO14, when they did the double over their local rivals, for inspiration, but Benetton will remind them that they returned the favour in the Rainbow Cup. Dewaldt Duvenage and company triumphed 25-20 on their last visit to Parma and followed it up with a 34-27 win in the return tie. 

The biggest winning margin in the last six showdowns was eight, so while the visitors should leave with a win, they’ll be made to work hard by the hosts, who normally have an extra spring in their step for this one.

Prediction: Benetton by 7.

Suggested bet: Benetton -5.5 at 1.84

Cardiff v Scarlets

Sunday, 26 December – 17:00

The guts the gaggle of semi-professionals and academy prospects showed and camaraderie built in the ravaged Cardiff camp far outweighed the heavy European Champions Cup defeats they endured over the last two weeks. With 42 players unavailable after their South African nightmare, they gained great respect for holding Harlequins to 17-all at half-time before the Gallagher Premiership champions cut loose in the second stanza last weekend, and bolstered squad will relish finally being back home.

Scarlets, who found themselves in the same situation, conceded their European Champions Cup opener to Bristol and saw their scheduled clash with Bordeaux last weekend canceled due to stricter French Covid protocols. Both sides are thus yearning for a semblance of normalcy and a derby is just what the doctor ordered.

The most welcome of homecomings and energy in the Cardiff camp should see them extend their winning streak in this rivalry to four.

Prediction: Cardiff by 6.

Ulster v Connacht

Sunday, 26 December – 19:15

After leaving Ulster with considerable egg on their face the last time they crossed paths, Connacht can expect payback in Belfast. Few gave Andy Friend’s team a chance and even the biggest Connacht fan would not have predicted they’d stun Ulster by a whopping 25 points (36-11) in Round Five.

That Ulster suffered a second upset in their last URC match, a 19-13 loss to the Ospreys, suggests they remain vulnerable but the arrival of Duane Vermeulen since then seems to have done the trick. Bolstered by the Springbok No.8, Ulster is coming off back-to-back European Champions Cup wins over Clermont Auvergne (29-23) and Northampton Saints (27-22).

For Dan McFarland’s team, this is a matter of proving a point. It’s about redemption for the crushing defeat in October. Such missions are fuelled by effort – something they lacked in the previous encounter. That chip on their shoulder should power them to not just a win, but sweet revenge.

Prediction: Ulster by 11.

Suggested Bet: Ulster -8.5 at 1.84.

Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh

Monday, 27 December – 21:00

Monday night’s Scottish derby promises to be an epic! Both teams have punched above their weight in the URC to date. Edinburgh is the form team in the league with four straight wins following their 20-all draw with the Stormers. They sit second thanks to their impressive run and continued that momentum with a 21-18 victory over Saracens in the European Challenge Cup last weekend.

Having said that, the Warriors made such a statement in the top-flight European Champions Cup at the weekend that I have to go with them. The 22-7 triumph over the favoured Exeter Chiefs was the most complete and commanding performance the men from Glasgow have produced this season and I see them building on that with a narrow win (a fourth derby delight in a row) in a regional war.

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 2.

Suggested bet: Edinburgh +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.

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