The break for the November Internationals is in the rearview mirror and we are immediately thrust back into the grind of the URC.
Here is a look at some of the games with odds from BetXchange.
Stormers VS Scarlets – DHL Stadium, Cape Town
It is a round where all the South African teams host all the Welsh teams in the URC. This has led to some heavy home favorites, with the Stormers as 16.5-point favorites over the Scarlets in Cape Town. The difference here is the points conceded. Stormers are second in the entire comp with just 121 points conceded on the season, while Scarlets have the third-worst defense in the URC and have given up 211 points in their matches to date. The Stormers’ new-look halfback pairing of Kade Wolhuter and Paul de Wet will have to go well, and if they do, I expect them to cover.
Blue Bulls VS Ospreys – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The Bulls are the heaviest favorites and have to cover 22.5 points at Loftus. This is the third-place team on the log against the 13th-placed squad, and the Ospreys are not known for traveling well. The Bulls score plenty – their 214 points are third in the comp. – and they are fourth with 41 clean breaks. Expect them to look for attacking opportunities and keep things ticking with their mauls and other elements of forward play. Even so, I think the line is high, and Ospreys will sneak a backdoor cover.
Lions VS Dragons – Ellis Park, Johannesburg
This is the closest battle by log position, with the ninth-placed Lions hosting the tenth-placed Dragons. These squads are evenly matched – they scored 155 points through seven rounds – and the Dragons have been better than the Lions in areas such as clean breaks and offloads. One area to watch here is the lineouts. The dragons are the second-best team in the comp at winning their lineout, while the Lions are dead last. This is an area I expect Dragons to target, and of all the Welsh teams, this is the one I have the most confidence in covering at those 15.5 points.
Sharks VS Cardiff – Kings Park, Durban
The eighth-placed Sharks are 17.5-point favorites over the team two places above them on the log. The Sharks are incredibly effective with their carries, turning their second bottom rate in carries per 80 minutes into the second-best rate of meters gained. This is because their gain-line success of 63% is by far the best in the league. They play quickly, and they carry strongly, and it is hard to see the Cardiff defense being able to cope with the onslaught of bodies that is about to be thrown at them. One player that will want to win his contacts is Thomas Young. Young has made the most tackles in the URC, part of a Cardiff defense that leads the comp with 1,070 tackles. This will be an attritional battle, one I expect the Sharks to come out on top of.