The United Rugby Championship (URC) log could see a big shake-up in the next few weeks as the Northern Hemisphere teams start heading south in six of the next seven rounds.

During this important round of fixtures, South African sides may receive the much needed boost they need on familiar home conditions to challenge for places in the top half of the table.

This round marks the first time teams from Europe will play in South Africa this season, and this is sure to spice up the competition further as the tournament reaches a climax.

Sharks VS Scarlets

Sparks are expected to fly at Kings Park on Friday evening when the Sharks will be entertaining the Scarlets in a must-watch United Rugby Championship (URC) clash in Durban.

Sharks coach Sean Everitt has made just three changes to his team with Jeremy Ward coming in for Lukhanyo Am, who is off to Japan for a two-month stint with Kobe Steelers, at outside centre.

In the absence of the influential Am, who has been named as South Africa’s URC player of the month, for February, the leadership role has been handed to Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.

The other two changes come in the pack where Reniel Hugo replaces Ruben van Heerden in the second row and eighthmen Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Phepsi Buthelezi switch positions this week.

For Scarlets, coach Dwayne Peel has made three changes for the first south v north match-up on South African soil in the newly-revamped competition.

With wing Ryan Conbeer taking a knock on his shoulder last weekend, a fit-again Corey Baldwin comes in for his first Scarlets appearance since breaking his foot in pre-season to join Tom Rogers and Steff Evans in the back three.

Skipper Scott Williams and Johnny Williams are again named in midfield, while the two other changes to the side come at half-back.

Rhys Patchell picked up a calf issue in the second half of the victory over Glasgow so sits this one out and Sam Costelow comes in and he partners Dane Blacker.

The pack is the same as the one that took the field last Saturday.

Pick: Sharks Wins by 1/12 at BetXchange

Bulls VS Munster

The Bulls have opted for consistency ahead of their URC encounter against Irish side Munster Rugby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Bulls coach Jake White has made no changes to his side’s starting XV for the match where he has opted to continue with the same team that impressed in the side’s 45-7 win against Zebre in their previous URC outing.

Veteran flyhalf, Morne Steyn, will make a return to the match-day squad as he provides cover from the bench after completing an initial three-week ban which was reduced to two weeks.

On the other hand, visiting Munster will be in search of their ninth victory of the season.

Pick: Bulls Wins by 4/10 at BetXchange

Lions VS Cardiff

Lock forward Reinhard Nothnagel will make his return to the Lions match 23 for the URC fixture against Welsh outfit Cardiff at Emirates Airline Park on Sunday.

The return of Nothnagel relieves the pressure at lock for the Lions and his inclusion certainly bodes well for the Johannesburg-based team come lineout time.

For Cardiff, they will be in high spirits in Johannesburg as they have lost just one of their last five fixtures against South African opposition.

Pick: Lions Wins by 9/20 at BetXchange

Stormers VS Zebre

Damian Willemse will celebrate a half-century of Stormers caps in the United Rugby Championship against Zebre Parma in Stellenbosch on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Willemse, who made his Stormers debut in 2017 at the age of just 18 years, will start at inside centre against the Italian side this weekend.

The team will be led by experienced flank Deon Fourie in the absence of regular skipper Steven Kitshoff, who is being rested as part of a Springbok player management plan.

Warrick Gelant is fit to take his place at fullback, with Leolin Zas starting on the wing in a rotational change following some impressive performances for DHL Western Province in the Carling Currie Cup.

Brok Harris shifts across to loosehead prop, with Neethling Fouche starting at tighthead, while Hacjivah Dayimani is back in the starting line-up on the flank.

The Stormers will be favourites because the Italians have had a disappointing season suffering defeats in all their matches to date and to get a win in Stellenbosch they must deliver a top-class performance.

Pick: Stormers Wins by 36/1 at BetXchange


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