There are just four full rounds – plus some catch-up games – to play before the top eight teams in the URC book their places in the quarter-finals. Most teams are still in contention, so expect Round 15 to be a good one.
Here is a look at some of the matches.
The Sharks VS Dragons – Kings Park Stadium, Durban
There really isn’t much to say here. The Sharks currently hold the final spot in the playoffs, while the Dragons are second bottom with just 11 points (albeit having played fewer matches than everyone else). Dragons were crushed 55-20 by the Bulls last time out and have made nine changes including Welsh internationals Ross Moriarty and Will Rowlands. Sharks’ five changes include Siya Kolisi dropping to the bench.
I expect the Sharks to bounce back in a big way after their 21-5 defeat by Edinburgh which was the first win by a Northern Hemisphere sid in South Africa in the comp. They will win and cover the 26.5 point spread.
Blue Bulls VS Ulster – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
A much more interesting game in terms of the playoffs sees second-placed Ulster (50 points from 14 games) take on the seventh-placed Bulls (37 points from 13 games) in Pretoria. Ulster went down 23-20 last week at the hands of the Stormers in controversial fashion and they will be looking to get back to winning ways here.
There are 10 changes in the Ulster side, with captain Iain Henderson set to make just his second Ulter appearance of the campaign. The Bulls have made far fewer tweaks, with their big changes coming in the pack with Mornay Smith and Elfigh Louw starting. This is a tougher game to pick and I like Ulster to do enough to cover the 4.5 point spread and maybe even sneak a win.
Lions VS Edinburgh – Ellis Park, Johannesburg
The win by Edinburgh over the Sharks last week shows that the Scottish team that sits fifth in the table (43 points) will not be scared of facing the 12th placed Lions (26 points) here. Edinburgh should – in theory – be even better this week as they welcome back four Scottish internationals. Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, WP Nel, and Darcy Graham are all back in contention following the Six Nations.
The Lions will be looking to use their style of play to wear down their visitors in the high altitude of Johannesburg. This is a tactic that was very effective against Ospreys last time out and that has worked well against all the Northern Hemisphere teams they have faced. Edinburgh will be the next to fail to win here as I like the Lions outright at 27/20 with BetXchange.
Stormers VS Ospreys – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Ospreys have been sneaky good in the URC this season and are arguable the best of the Welsh bunch. They get to bring in their Six Nations stars like wing Alex Cuthbert and powerful forwards Tomas Francis and Adam Beard. Stormers have made some enforced changes with the most notable being Damian Wilemse moving to fullback to replace the injured Warrick Gelant. Rikus Pretorious floats in to cover at No. 12.
I like the Stormers to win but the line of 22.5 points seems a little extreme. Take the Welsh side to cover in what might be the best value play of the week.