A pair of Irish teams top the log, with Ulster and Leinster sitting on a perfect 10 points each from two games. The Sharks sit seventh but are also perfect after winning a wild one over Zebre in their Round 2 opener.
Here is a look at the matches this week with BetXchange.
Blue Bulls VS Connacht – Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Connacht inflicted the Bulls’ worst defeat of the 2021-22 URC when they turned over the South Africans 34-7 in Galway. It seems unlikely that the game will go the same way here, with the likes of Elrigh Louw, Ruan Nortje, and Kurt-Lee Arendse being added to a team that was already loaded with Springboks. This will be the first time the entire backline has played together, and I expect them to run at, over, and around the Connacht backs on their way to a comfortable win as they cover the -18.5 that they are being given.
Ulster VS Leinster – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
This third-round match is the best game of the season to date. We are so used to seeing Leinster called defending champions as they take on the other Irish provinces, but after the South African invasion, they can no longer carry that label. They are, however, still the team to beat in the comp, but they face an Ulster squad that is bang in form here. Ulster scored 12 tries out against the Scarlets last time, and their one change sees Tom O’Toole ahead of Marty Moore.
Leinster will be boosted by Irish international Jack Conan making his first season start and James Ryan and Johnny Sexton coming off the bench. Ulster has lost more players to the Emerging Ireland tour, and I think that will be decisive as Leinster wins here, thanks to their increased depth on the bench.
Cardiff VS Lions – Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Cardiff makes seven changes here, including the return of the outstanding Taulupe Falatau at No. 8. The likes of Rhys Priestland, Ray Lee-Lo, and Lopeti Timani all start, while Josh Adams and Thomas Young aren’t yet ready. Lions change two from the 28-27 win over an Osprey’s team that is always good at home, with Henco van Wyk and Pieter Jansen van Vuren both recalled. The line is 5.5, and the lean is to the home side.
Stormers VS Edinburgh – DHL Stadium, Cape Town
Stormers will be without wing Seabelo Senatla who is out for a significant period with a pec injury. The team will be resting the South African contingent that just put up mega minutes in the Rugby Championship, with the return date of Damian Willemse the most up in the air as he recovers from a concussion. Edinburgh is a tricky opponent, a team with a little X-factor about them and plenty of ability to score points. I expect the Stormers to win, but the spread at 6.5 could go either way.
Dragons VS Sharks – Rodney Parade, Newport
A couple of Sharks injuries see lock Justin Basson in the starting XV over Gerbrandt Grobler, while back three specialist Anthony Volmink is on the bench ahead of Fred Zeilinga. Sharks snuck past Zebre 42-37 in Parma last weekend, with the Italians proving to be a tough test over the course of 80 minutes. Dragons were impressive in their 23-17 over Munster, and they will be a tough out at home here. Don’t be shocked by a late cover at +8.5 with BetXchange.