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United Rugby Championship Predictions – Quarter-Finals

It’s do-or-die time as the elite eight square off in the United Rugby Championship quarter-finals this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

United Rugby Championship

It’s do-or-die time as the elite eight square off in the United Rugby Championship quarter-finals this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

All five countries are in with a shot to claim the crown. Three of the four Irish teams have qualified for the playoffs in Munster, Leinster and Ulster, the Bulls and the Stormers will fly the South African flag while the Glasgow Warriors, Benetton and the Ospreys will represent Scotland, Italy and Wales respectively.

Defending champions Munster kick off the knockouts against the Ospreys in Limerick on Friday night, with the remaining fixtures set to take place on Saturday. The Bulls will welcome Benetton to Loftus Versfeld, Leinster host Ulster in Dublin and the Stormers cross swords with the Warriors in Glasgow.

Munster v Ospreys

Friday, 7 June – 20:35

After doing things the hard way last year with an away run for the ages capped off by a 19-14 title triumph over the Stormers in Cape Town, Munster have set themselves up perfectly this season with their hard-fought 29-24 win over Ulster last weekend seeing them finish the league phase in pole position.

With that comes the easiest of the last eight assignments (on paper at least) against the Ospreys, who snatched the final quarter-final place from the Lions with their 33-29 victory over Cardiff.

Toby Booth’s troops are the first Welsh team to reach the playoffs since the inception of the URC and the first Welsh team to reach the knockouts of the competition in its previous form since 2018 and will run onto the Limerick pitch with nothing to lose, which could make them tricky customers.

That said, Munster are heavy favourites for a reason and bar a red card or unlikely implosion, they’ll move onto the semi-finals with little issue.

Prediction: Munster by 14.

Suggested Bet: Munster -13.5 at 1.86.

Bulls v Benetton

Saturday, 8 June – 15:30

The Bulls didn’t have it all their own way in Durban last weekend but showed good growth to secure the bonus point win they needed to temporarily move to the top of the log.

Though they had to settle for a second playoff seeding in the end, that ability to deliver will stand them in good stead in the high-pressure situations they’ll be in from here on out. The most pleasing aspect of their 26-14 triumph over the Sharks was their scrum dominance against their hosts’ all-Springbok front row. With that type of weapon and front foot ball, they’ll be tough to contain.

Benetton, who were excellent in their 31-6 win over Edinburgh last weekend, find themselves between a rock and a hard place as far as their match-up against the Bulls is concerned after their kicking game bombed in their Round 17 lashing at Loftus. The Italians, who go to the boot more than any other team in the league, marginally won the territory battle (53%) but were run off the park in a 56-35 defeat.

Not only don’t they have the offensive sting to match the Bulls, but they managed to retain just one contestable kick. The Bulls, in turn, retained six, so they’re better than the Italians across the board and should canter into the final four.

Prediction: Bulls by 17.

Suggested Bet: Benetton +19.5 at 1.81.

Leinster v Ulster

Saturday, 8 June – 18:00

Strap in for an uncompromising Irish derby in Dublin where Leinster will be feeling the pressure after having lost in the European Champions Cup final for the third year in a row.

The powerhouse club carry such a heavy weight of expectation due to their unrivalled depth and remain the outright favourites to win the title in the bookies’ minds at 1.54 (followed by the Bulls at 6.00 and Munster at 6.50 with the Stormers fourth at 12.00).

Not only that, they lost the previous meeting against Ulster 23-21, although, the Round 17 clash was contested in Belfast. How will they respond to the pressure against tough competition? That’s the big question. Their initial bounce back from the heart-breaking loss to Toulouse was emphatic, a crushing 33-7 victory over Connacht last weekend, to snatch the Irish Shield from under Ulster’s noses, but now the heat is on.  

Ulster took Munster to the limit last weekend, with the five-point away loss snapping a four-match winning streak. They’re solid everywhere but they’re not quite as dangerous and clinical on attack as their hosts or opportunistic at the breakdown to beat Leinster on their home turf. It should be closer than the line suggests, though.

Prediction: Leinster by 5.

Suggested Bet: Ulster +16.5 at 1.81.

Glasgow Warriors v Stormers

Saturday, 8 June – 20:35

The closest odds are reserved for the last of the quarter-final clashes, with the hosts entering as marginal favourites.

Franco Smith’s men were far from their best in their 38-26 win over wooden spoonists Zebre last weekend. They were far too generous on defence and the push for as big a win as possible to potentially finish atop the table (they had to be satisfied with fourth in the end) saw them being over-eager and playing too expansively. Expect them to revert to a far more structured approach on Saturday.

The hard-fought game against the Lions was an ideal test of mettle for the Stormers, one they passed with flying colours as they not only pipped a side fighting for survival but did so despite being down to 14 men from the 49th minute. They’ll need that grit if they’re to stay in the title race, especially given how tough it is to win in Glasgow.

The Warriors are unbeaten at home in the URC this season and have won 10 of 11 in their backyard in all competitions, including beating Leinster 43-25, the Stormers 20-9 and Ulster 33-20, with their lone loss coming the Northampton Saints (28-19) in the European Champions Cup.

After starting their campaign with a four-match winless Euro trip, the Stormers were able to win their last two overseas games against the Dragons (44-21) and Connacht (16-12) and have the team to squeak out the win. However, I’m not convinced they have the requisite exit game and match management, so I’m siding with the hosts.

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 4.

Suggested Bet: Glasgow Warriors -1.5 at 1.76.

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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