It is time for the final round of group games in the European Rugby Champions Cup for the 2022-23 season. There are several intriguing matchups, along with some that are hard to get excited about. There are three South African sides in action, and we will start this preview piece with a look at the game between Lyon and the Blue Bulls in France.
Here is a look at some of the games with odds from BetXchange.
Lyon VS Blue Bulls – Stade de Garland, Lyon
A Bulls side at full strength would fancy their chances here, but there has been some rotation in the 23 that will travel to France to take on Lyon. Nizaam Carr has been named the captain, while the front row has been overhauled with Simphiwe Matanzime, Francois Klopper, and Bismark Du Plessis in the front row. The Bulls are primed to qualify through to the last 16 of the comp with a win, as they have won two of their three pool matches to date. This included a 43-36 win over Lyon in South Africa, but I think the French side will have too much at home, and the Bulls will be awaiting other results later in the weekend to see if they have made it through the knockout stage.
Harlequins VS Sharks – Twickenham Stood, London
It is always hard to know what type of side a team traveling from the Southern Hemisphere will take with them to the Northern Hemisphere (and vice versa). It is refreshing to see that the Sharks have gone full strength for this match at The Stoop on Saturday. The Sharks have won three from three in the comp – they are already assured of a spot in the Round of 16 – but this is a squad sent to make sure of a home match at that stage and to make a statement in England. A road trip against Edinburgh in the URC next weekend helps make this choice viable, and I think they will have enough to upset ‘Quins here.
Stormers VS Clermont Auvergne – DHL Stadium, Cape Town
Stormers are massive 15.5-point favorites to beat a Clermont Auvergne side that isn’t what it once was in terms of overall quality. The Stormers have won four of six in all competitions, with one defeat being in the reverse fixture. Clemont has been bad since that win, claiming just one more victory in their last five matches and suffering heavy defeats at home to both Toulouse and Leicester. It is hard to see the French side traveling well here as they are all but out of the competition, so I expect the Stormers to win dominantly and cover that total.
Ulster VS Sale – Kingspan, Belfast
Sale monstered Ulster 39-0 at the AJ Bell a month ago. The Irish side will be without experienced campaigners Luke Marshall and Iain Henderson after they picked up knocks as Ulster lost frustratingly to La Rochelle last time out. The line is set at 5.5 in favor of the hosts, but it is worth noting that the visitors have been in fine form in the Premiership and need a win here to qualify, having lost to Toulouse twice in a row in Rounds 2 and 3. I think they steal this in an upset.