The quarter-finals of the 2022-23 URC season take place this weekend. The field sees three South African squads, a Scottish side, and – impressively – all four Irish provinces. The takeaway from this is that Wales and Italy must try harder.

Here is a look at some of this week’s games with odds from BetXchange.

Ulster VS Connacht – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

When: Friday, May 5

The first quarter-final is an all-Irish affair as Ulster host Connacht at the Kingspan. Ulster finished second on the log, a full 18 points ahead of seventh-placed Connacht, so the spread of 10.5 makes sense.

The stats suggest the difference here is in the ability of the teams to find space in attack. Ulster made 102 clean breaks and had 137 offloads on the season, to just 76 breaks and 118 offloads from Connacht. I think that is how this game will go, with Ulster making the running. Connacht has stars in Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen, and while I like them to cover, Ulster will win outright.

Stormers VS Bulls – DHL Stadium, Cape Town

When: Saturday, May 6

From a South African perspective, the most interesting game sees the third-placed Stormers hosting the sixth-placed Bulls in Cape Town. The two were separated by 15 points on the log, but the Bulls will be happy with this draw as it means they don’t have to travel thousands of miles to the Northern Hemisphere. As a result, they will think they have a shot.

The Bulls are an interesting case. They actually have the third-best points difference in the league behind only Leinster and Ulster, the teams that finished one and two on the log. That makes this a scary matchup for a Stormers team that scored over 80 points less than the Bulls over the course of the season.

The Stormers’ advantage is that they have owned the Bulls of late. The hosts have won five in a row against their rivals from Pretoria, a fact that will play on the minds of the Bulls players. They have yet to beat them in the URC, but the Bulls are focusing on the fact that these haven’t been blowout wins, and a couple of different bounces of the ball would have led to a different result.

It is time for the Bulls to end this run. I fancy them to pip the Stormers on their own patch in a classic.

Leinster VS Sharks – Aviva Stadium, Dublin

When: Saturday, May 6

I would love to back the Sharks here, but nothing suggests they can beat the Leinster machine in Dublin. The Irish side just battered Toulouse in the Champions Cup semi-final 41-22 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as that score suggests. They are also imperious at home, with their only defeat in the URC this season being at the hands of the Bulls last time out when they sent a C or D-level squad to Pretoria with the top spot on the log long since locked up.

The Sharks backed into the playoffs as they won just one of their last five, and they are also heading to the Irish capital without injured stars Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, and (crucially) fly-half Curwin Bosch. Leinster wins this by 20+.

Glasgow Warriors VS Munster – Scotstoun, Glasgow

When: Saturday, May 6

This should be the best game of the weekend. Glasgow finished eight points ahead of Munster to claim home advantage for this quarter-final, but there is nothing to pick between these two sides.

Glasgow is on a serious roll. They have won seven in a row across all competitions and are brimming with confidence at the moment. They have won 137 turnovers this season to 99 for Munster, so expect the Scots to focus on the breakdown with their excellent back row jackaling hard at every opportunity.

Munster is also hot – they have lost just one in eight in the URC – but I think Glasgow sneak this by a penalty in what should be a rocking Scotstoun.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here