Connect with us

Rugby

United Rugby Championship Predictions – Lions v Sharks & Bulls v Stormers

It’s a case of going back to the future for South African teams when they resume their United Rugby Championship campaigns this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

It’s a case of going back to the future for South African teams when they resume their United Rugby Championship campaigns this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Ten rounds are in the can, but due to all the Covid-enforced postponements and reconfigurations, the “Big Four” have to go back to move forward by facing off in derbies that form part of Round Eight.

The Highveld is the battleground for the local showdowns on Saturday, starting with the predatory clash between the Lions and the Sharks in Johannesburg. The spotlight then shifts across the Jukskei to Pretoria for the North/South derby between the Bulls and the Stormers.  

Lions v Sharks

Saturday, 22 January – 15:00

The winner of Saturday’s first fixture will sit atop the South African Shield where the Lions (11) currently have a two-point lead over the second-placed Sharks.

The winner of Saturday’s first fixture will sit atop the South African Shield where the Lions (11) currently have a two-point lead over the second-placed Sharks.

Bolstered by green and gold superstars Siya Kolisi, Lukhanyo Am, Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi, the Durban side claimed a convincing 30-16 win over the visiting Bulls in early December, the last time local teams tasted URC action.

The Lions showed they don’t need Springbok star power when they stunned the Stormers 37-19. Their steely physicality on the day will serve them well against a Sharks pack who bullied the Bulls at scrum time.

The heart and skill of the hosts will make them a tough nut to crack, but the Sharks are so strong and balanced with world-class talent across the board that they should leave Ellis Park with a win.

Prediction: Sharks by 10.

Bulls v Stormers

Saturday, 22 January – 17:05

With only winless Zebre worse off, neither side can afford to drop this one. That said, a loss at Loftus, which has been re-established as a fortress under Jake White, would be catastrophic for the Bulls.

With just a win apiece in five fixtures, the Stormers’ draw with Edinburgh sees them two points ahead of their traditional rivals. Propping up the South African Shield is an unfamiliar place for the men from Pretoria, who’ve won every domestic title in the Covid era. Thus, this will be as much of a test of character as it’ll be of strength, strategy, and skill.

The Bulls were the only franchise who used the window of opportunity the opening rounds of the Currie Cup presented for URC stars to shake off festive season rust and that should form the foundation for success on Saturday. I’m expecting a sharper and more powerful Bulls team to prevail with some room to spare.

Prediction: Bulls by 12.

SIGN UP TO OUR BET CENTRAL PLAYBOOK
Get weekly emails packed with the best tips and sports content.
Get ahead of the game now - fill in the contact form below.
[contact-form-7 id="11247" title="Bet Central Playbook Signup"]

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.

More in Rugby