South African franchises will be desperate for one last big push as they wrap up their home run in the league phase of the United Rugby Championship (URC) this weekend.
Three of the four sides are looking to give themselves the best possible chance of securing favourable results that will put them in an advantageous position to qualify for the quarter-final stage.
Second-placed Stormers, fourth-placed Sharks and eight-placed Bulls are all in play-off contention and depending on the results in the next two rounds – which include away fixtures in the final round-robin stage next month – all three could still qualify for home quarter-finals.
The Stormers and Sharks will have the added motivation of possibly being able to finish in the league stages in the top two on the log, which would pave the way for home semi-finals and perhaps a home final for one of them should they go all the way.
Bulls VS Glasgow Warriors
James Verity-Amm will earn a starting berth for the Bulls in this crucial match against Glasgow Warriors at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
The Bulls have made four changes to their backline for this clash, in addition to a solitary personnel change in the forwards pack.
Verity-Amm, who has shown some fine form for the Tshwane-based side in the domestic Carling Currie Cup, has received an opportunity to start on the right wing this weekend.
The young and talented Canan Moodie, who has proven himself as a solid outside back who featured on the wing so far this season, will show his versatility when he starts at fullback.
The Bulls will also have a changed half-back pairing which will see Zak Burger combining with the experienced Morne Steyn.
Hard man, Arno Botha, makes a return to the starting XV where he will don the No7 jersey.
A strong bench will see the return of Harold Vorster to action after missing last weekend’s game against Benetton Rugby, while Cyle Brink will be providing loose-forward cover.
Pick: Bulls Wins by 2/9 at BetXchange
Lions v Benetton
The Lions may be playing for pride, but with the team coming off back-to-back defeats after an impressive four-match winning run, they will present a stern challenge against Benetton.
They will also look to take advantage of Benetton’s disappointing track record away from home after last winning a match outside of Italy in the 2020 season, and the fact that they have only won four of their 15 matches so far in the competition.
Pick: Lions Wins by 1/6 at BetXchange
Sharks v Connacht
Sharks head coach Sean Everitt has shown commitment to the saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ by naming the exact same match 23 for his team’s United Rugby Championship clash with Connacht at Kings Park on Saturday.
He has rewarded the side that beat the log leaders last week by showing complete faith in their abilities, with the good fortune of no injury issues to hamper continuity in team selection.
They will have their sights set firmly on a fourth successive victory and to leap into the top three on the standings to keep alive their aspirations of finishing the league stages in the top two.
The KwaZulu-Natalians will be bracing themselves for a hard grind as the 10th placed Connacht are high on confidence after winning three of their last four away matches while they are yet to be beaten by a South African side this season.
Pick: Sharks Wins by 1/4 at BetXchange
Stormers v Leinster
The Stormers will be expecting a tough encounter against log-leaders Leinster at the Cape Town Stadium, where they hosts will be hunting their sixth win in a row and ninth victory in 10 matches.
The Capetonians have had a rewarding home stretch so far this season, winning all their matches since early December, but they will be wary of the fact that a win for Leinster will guarantee them the top spot on the log, which is invaluable if they advance to the final.
The Irish giants will also be determined to avoid suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time in the competition since 2019.
Stormers coach John Dobson has made three changes to his side with fullback Warrick Gelant starting and Damian Willemse shifting to inside centre in place of Rikus Pretorius, who has been ruled out due to concussion.
Deon Fourie returns from injury to take his place on the side of the scrum, while the only other change to the starting line-up sees JJ Kotze at hooker in place of the injured Scarra Ntubeni.
Wilmar Arnoldi, who is on loan from the Cheetahs, is set to make his Stormers debut from the replacements bench.