The early season URC log makes for interesting studying. Leinster and Ulster lead the pack, but South African sides sit third through sixth, just waiting to make their moves on the two Irish provinces. Stormers (in third) is the only undefeated team other than Leinster – they have played one less game – and all four teams are favored in their matches this weekend.
Here is a look at those games with odds from BetXchange.
Benetton VS Bulls – Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso
Benetton got blasted last time out at Edinburgh, with the Scottish side winning 53-8 at home. That match included a pair of tries for Duhan van der Merwe on his second debut in the Scottish capital. Despite that defeat, Benetton is still seventh on the log – level on points with the Bulls – having won three and lost two so far.
The Bulls have been in poor form on this tour, losing to Glasgow and Munster. Benetton is much better at home than on the road, and Bulls fans won’t need reminding of what happened the last time they were at this venue in the final of the first and only) Rainbow Cup. I like Benetton to win in a minor upset at home here.
Lions VS Glasgow Warriors – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
The Lions have been the surprise of the South African bunch and sit in fifth place on 15 points from five matches. They were great on tour – taking down Cardiff, Ospreys, and Edinburgh – but then lost an instant classic last weekend at home, where Ulster tripped them up 39-37. Glasgow has had an unsettled week thanks to an outbreak of flu in camp, and if – and it is a big if – the Lions can slow down their play, then I think they will go well here. Glasgow has lost their last nine away matches in the comp and the settled nature of the Lions side – they have four of the seven players to have played all available minutes so far – makes me think they will hold serve and cover at -8.5 on Saturday,
Sharks VS Ulster – Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
This should be a cracking match. Ulster is second on the log, and their only defeat of the season came against Leinster. The sharks have only played four games, but they have still done enough to pick up 16 points from three wins and one defeat, also at the hands of Leinster. No touring side has picked up a double win in South Africa in the URC, but Ulster could change that after putting in a massive 80 minutes in Johannesburg’s heat and thin air last weekend. Ulster doesn’t concede penalties – they have racked up a league-low 40 total and scored the most points on any team in the URC. The Sharks don’t turn the ball over, and I think this one is almost too close to call. If I were pressed, I would take Ulster +4.5.
Cardiff VS Stormers – Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
The Stormers may not have been happy with the refereeing last week against Ospreys, but they got out of Swansea with a 16-16 draw that kept alive an unbeaten streak that has reached 15 matches. Cardiff is the leading tackling team in the league, a great mark for its defense but also suggesting that they don’t retain a lot of possession as they always have to make tackles. The Stormers’ metrics are weird for a team that doesn’t lose – fewest carries, fewest contact meters, fewest turnovers won – but they keep finding a way to get the job done. I think that continues here, and I would take them on the money line at 9/20.