Round 2 of the URC features cross-pool games and all four South African teams playing teams from different countries. It will be the Sharks and Stomers first hit out of the season after their Round 1 game against each other was postponed until February.
Here is a look at the matches with BetXchange.
Zebre VS Sharks – Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Zebre is traditionally one of the worst teams in the comp, but their opening round game against Leinster suggests improvement is on the way. They scored a pair of bonus points in the 33-29 home defeat. Sharks were – by their own admission – disappointing in their opening URC salvo a year ago. I expect them to go better in 2022-23, and that close call from Leinster in Round 1 will motivate the Sharks and know Zebre have stepped up their game. I expect them to cover at -16.5, paying 9/10 with BetXchange.
Scarlets VS Ulster – Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
-Ulster ran in five tries in a 36-10 demolition of Connacht in Round 1, while Scarlets conceded a converted try after the horn had sounded to snatch a draw from the hands of victory at home against Ospreys. The versatile Nathan Doak played both No. 9 and No. 10 for Ulster, the latest in a line of half-backs for the province with the ability to change games. I think the Irish will be too much here and cover at -3.5.
Blue Bulls VS Edinburgh – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The Blue Bulls were the only South African team to win in Round 1 – albeit only two played, and they faced each other – as they cruised to a 31-16 victory over the Lions. Edinburgh was even more impressive, scoring seven tries as they ran over Dragons at home. Four penalties from Chris Smith kept the scoreboard ticking over for that Bulls, and he will be important here against an Edinburgh team with the ability to score points. The Blue Bulls win to remain perfect, but I like the Scottish team to do enough with ball in hand to cover the +10.5 they are given.
Stormers VS Connacht – Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch
Reigning champion Stormers will get their title defense off to a belated start in Stellenbosch this weekend. Stormers were molten hot at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, winning their last 11 on the bounce to take home the title. The line is -10.5 for Stormers, and I expect them to cover this against a Connacht team that looked completely devoid of ideas as the game wore on against Ulster in Round 1. Stormers fans will be interested to know that Junior Springbok center Suleiman Hartzenberg starts here, playing in the No. 13 jumper after an impressive run in junior rugby last season.
Ospreys VS Lions – Seansea.com Stadium, Swansea
Lions will be looking to back after losing to the Blue Bulls in Round 1, while Ospreys will be confident after grabbing a draw late on in Llanelli. This game could be won and lost in the backs where Ospreys are down several players through injury. Wales internationals Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin, and Alex Cuthbert all miss out, but there is better news in the back row as Dan Lydiate returns. Ospreys are always tough at home, and they will win here though a backdoor cover isn’t out of the question with the Lions at +9.5.