The log stage of the season has finished and the URC moves on to its first finals round this weekend. There are four games on tap in the quarterfinals, with three South African teams, three Irish teams, and a pair of Scottish teams ready to battle it out to the final in a few weeks’ time.
Ulster VS Munster – Revenhill Stadium, Belfast
Munster had the most disappointing final day of the season as their defeat at the hands of Leinster knocked them out of the top four and down to sixth in the tightly packed URC table. Ulster has won two in a row after losing three on the bounce and their 24-21 win over the Sharks in Belfast was huge as this home quarterfinal was their prize. Munster won both meetings between the two this season, though their 24-17 win in Belfast was their first at Ulster’s home in six years. I like Munster to make it three wins in a season here as Ulster will be without some striker power as European Player of the Year Mike Lowry will miss this one.
Blue Bulls VS Sharks – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The Sharks’ defeat at the hands of Ulster plus the Bulls’ bonus-point win over Ospreys in Wales allowed the Pretoria-based team to jump their South African rivals into fourth and host them here. The Sharks have more star power, but their best players haven’t always hit their peak this season. This would be the time to change that, but Jake White has his Bulls moving along steadily and they will be tough to beat at home. I think the Bulls win but the SHarks cover the 4.5-point spread they are being given.
Leinster VS Glasgow Warriors – RDS Arena, Dublin
Glasgow lost their all-Scotland battle with Edinburgh on the road last week 28-11. This means their ‘reward’ for making the finals is a trip to Dublin to face a Leinster team that is very angry after losing the European Champions Cup Final to La Rochelle last weekend.
This is a horrible spot for Glasgow to face Leinster in. The Irish team has the depth to rotate in internationals if needed, but I would expect a similar lineup to the one that lost against the French outfit. Glasgow beat Leinster a year ago almost to the day at Scotstoun. They will not do so again here. The Irish side wins in convincing fashion and covers the 16.5 points they are laying with BetXchange.
Stormers VS Edinburgh – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Winning over Glasgow means that instead of traveling to Dublin, Edinburgh must take the long flight to Cape Town for their quarterfinal against the Stormers. Edinburgh is a team that likes to attack and it is hard to see them going away from that strategy in this one. They can, however, be loose with the ball and that will cost them against a Stromers’ side that loves to attack off of turnovers in possession. Stormers are also a team in banging form as they have won eight URC games in a row since defeat at the hands of Connacht at the back end of February. Take Stormers to win but Edinburgh to cover at +9.5.