It is domestic title weekend for teams in the British Isles – and, by association, those in Italy and South Africa – as the Gallager Premiership Final and URC Final both take place on Saturday.
Here is a look at the two finals with odds from BetXchange.
Saracens VS Sale Sharks – Twickenham, London
When: Saturday, May 27
Saracens take on Sale in the Gallagher Premiership final after those two sides took care of Northampton and Leicester, respectively, in the semi-finals. Sarries’ win over the Saints was a walk in the park, while Sale struggled for 60 minutes or so to put down a dogged Tigers’ side who lost starting pivot Handre Pollard on the day of the game.
This final is taking place at Twickenham – the home of English rugby – so expect the crowd to be massively in favor of Saracens. The London-based club couldn’t have picked a better opponent in terms of crowd level, with Sale having one of the small fanbases in the league and the travel from Manchester to London likely to slim those numbers even more.
The back row battle will be huge, with Ben Earl and Tom Curry being at the very front of a loaded queue of No. 7s in the England frame. Sale will certainly miss the ability of Ben Curry – out for four months with a hamstring injury – and the Northerners would love Many Tuilagi to have the type of dominating performance in the centers that he hasn’t put together for a couple of seasons.
When it comes down to it, this game will be decided at fly-half. Owen Farrell is the England captain, but there is a school of thought that Sale’s George Ford is the ten that Steve Borthwick actually wants as his national team’s pivot. Farrell has been exceptional this season, while Ford looks fully recovered from the niggles that caused a long layoff early in the year.
Don’t be shocked if Sale pip Saracens here and take them to cover.
Stormers VS Munster – DHL Stadium, Cape Town
When: Saturday, May 27
Stormers have ridden home-field advantage all the way to the URC final after a pair of upsets saw them avoiding trips to Ireland to play Ulster in the semi-final and Leinster in the final. Instead, they had to get past a game Connacht side in the semis and now get to host Munster, who are making the 6,200-mile trip south.
Munster won the rights to that by beating arch-rival Leinster in their semi in a game where the Dublin-based giants rested too many key players. The gamble didn’t work out for Leinster either, as they then went on to lose the European Champions Cup Final – the game they had rested players for – against La Rochelle last weekend.
The pre-match noise has been about Munster’s plans to shut down the exciting Mani Libbok. The visitors see fly-half Libbok as the key to everything the Stormers do well in attack, so expect to see the pivot pressured early and often by Munster’s back row.
I don’t love that this game isn’t played at a neutral site. I understand that a better record during the year should equal home-field for the playoffs, but I would end that at the semi-final stage. I also don’t know where a neutral final would be played, given the distances involved, but I do think that this game being in Cape Town skews it massively in the favor of the hosts. The Stormers win this by double digits.