The URC is back with Round 13 after a couple of weeks of European Cup action. Sometimes the comp throws up rounds that are uninteresting with games that look to be one-sided. This is not one of those rounds. All four South African teams are in Europe, and some of the games look very tasty.
Here is a look at some of the games with odds from BetXchange.
Scarlets VS Bulls – Parc y Scarlets – Llanelli
The round opens in Llanelli with the 15th-placed Scarlets hosting the Bulls, who currently sit third on the log. This is a depleted Scarlets side, with regular captain Jonathan Davies injured and his deputy Ken Owens one of five players on duty for Wales in the Six Nations. The Bulls have also made a raft of changes to their side, with no fewer than 12 players coming in from the squad that lost 31-7 to Lyon last time. The Bulls have lost two of three in the URC, while Scarlets are in great form, having won six of seven in all comps. I will take the form here and predict Scarlets to cover the 7.5 points they are being given.
Ulster VS Stormers – Ravenhill, Belfast
Ulster is 9.5 point favorite in this top-of-the-table clash with the Stormers at Ravenhill. The Belfast side is fourth in the table, and they will have their hands full with a Stormers outfit that sits second on the log.
Ulster is without stars like captain Iain Henderson, wing Jacob Stockdale, and center Stuart McCloskey, who are all in camp with Ireland. Stormers are also below full strength, with Boks Steven Kitshoff and Damian Willemse being rested. They have the likes of Marvin Orie available, along with a pair of Boks coming off of injury in Scarra Ntubeni and Juan de Jong. I will lean toward the home side here, with neither squad at full strength and Ravenhill being a tough place to visit as a traveling side.
Edinburgh VS Sharks – DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh
This is a clash with playoff implications as eight-placed Edinburgh and the ninth-placed Sharks are separated in the table by just a single point. Edinburgh has won three in a row in all comps, while the Sharks have lost four of five across URC and European matches. This will be a game where squad depth is tested. Edinburgh is without its Scottish international contingent, meaning no Hamish Watson, Bliar Kinghorn, or Duhan van der Merwe. At the same time, the Sharks have traveled down several Springboks to get their internationals some rest before loading up for the back end of the season.
The line here is 3.5, and the match should be every bit as close as that number suggests. Ben Tapuai in midfield will be important, and it is worth noting that the Scottish side – like all the European sides – have been in this comp for long enough to understand how to deal with this period when they are down many frontline stars. I’ll take the hosts here to win and cover.