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United Rugby Championship Predictions – Sharks v Ulster, Lions v Glasgow Warriors

The Sharks and Lions will want to make the most of their home-ground advantage in the United Rugby Championship action this Saturday.

United Rugby Championship Sharks

The Sharks and Lions will want to make the most of their home-ground advantage when they host Ulster and the Glasgow Warriors respectively on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The sixth-round ties, which had to be rescheduled after gastro laid out the Irish and Scottish clubs while they were in Umhlanga last October, are the only United Rugby Championship clashes of the weekend and are set to be tough tests for the South African sides as the visiting teams are both in the top four.

Sharks v Ulster

Saturday, 25 February – 14:00

The 22-point winning margin over the Lions last weekend masks the fact that the Sharks dodged a bullet at Ellis Park. They were let off the hook time and time again in the first half and went into the break at 7-7 instead of trailing by 15 to 20 points. A team like Ulster, even without their internationals, will cash in on their opportunities, so the Sharks will have to step it up several notches.  

The drop in standard from the Springbok-laden first-choice team to the current second-string side is severe. It’s the growing pains of the demanding new schedule and while one can argue the Durban franchise should be better equipped to deal with the depth issue given their budget, the fact is the players that are there have generally underperformed while the structures are still being developed. 

Still, they were able to bag a bonus-point away win to move up to seventh place on the log, but against title challengers like the Stormers, who humiliated them 46-19 in their last home game, and Ulster, scrappy performances like the one against the Lions won’t fly. 

Third-placed Ulster, from a structural point of view, have their ducks in a row by comparison. They did go down 17-11 to the Warriors last weekend, but that was in Glasgow and after they’d led at half-time. Ultimately, they’re a more cohesive unit and I just don’t have enough confidence in the Sharks ‘B’ team to back them against Dan McFarland’s men.

Prediction: Ulster by 3. 

Suggested Bet: Ulster at 4.40.

Lions v Glasgow Warriors

Saturday, 25 February – 16:10

When it rains, it pours. Last weekend’s 29-7 loss means the Lions have now won just one of their last eight games in all competitions and they begrudgingly welcome a surging Warriors side whose above-mentioned six-point victory over Ulster stretched their winning streak in all competitions to 10.

Out of the playoff hunt, the Lions only have pride to play for from here on out and the Bulls (sixth) and Sharks (seventh) will be hoping they do them a favour by upsetting fourth-placed Glasgow. It’s highly unlikely, though, as the players have reportedly lost faith in the coaching staff. 

Franco Smith will warn his troops about the South African mentality when it comes to being counted out, so they’ll sidestep complacency and compound the Lions’ woes with their superior class. 

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 12.

Suggested Bet: Glasgow Warriors -1.5 at 2.02.

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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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