United Rugby Championship Predictions – February 11 & 12

It’s nothing but blockbuster battles in the United Rugby Championship this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Ireland and Scotland’s giants collide on Friday night as fourth-placed Leinster tackle second-placed Edinburgh and the third-placed Glasgow Warriors meet fifth-placed Munster.

Then it’s the final round of South African derbies on Saturday with the Lions hosting the Stormers and the Bulls squaring off against the Sharks.

Leinster v Edinburgh

Friday, 11 February – 20:00

Edinburgh was knocked off the top spot by Ulster last weekend and will have to beat Ireland’s perennial apex powerhouse in their backyard to reclaim pole position. It’s a feat they’ve achieved only once in 19 attempts, back in 2005 when they prevailed 27-13 on their very first trip to Dublin.

Both teams will be determined to bounce back after suffering shock losses to spirited Welsh regions last time out, Leinster losing 29-27 to Cardiff and Edinburgh falling 23-19 to the Ospreys, mainly due to being stripped of their Test stars. Leinster are without 15 internationals, while 13 Edinburgh aces are on Scottish duty.

The defending champions have greater depth, which along with home ground advantage, should see them pick up the win.

Prediction: Leinster by 5.

Suggested bet: Edinburgh +14.5 at 1.83.

Glasgow Warriors v Munster

Friday, 11 February – 22:15

The Warriors will look to claim a second Irish scalp in as many matches after their stunning 42-20 away win over fancied Connacht. The Glasgow outfit coped with the absence of 11 internationals just fine and is chasing their fourth straight URC win.

Munster, who are missing nine Test talents, breezed past Zebre (34-17) in their previous outing. The sides have split the last six meetings in the Scottish capital and it could go either way again. The Warriors were the epitome of clinical against Connacht, breaking the line at will, scoring six tries, and missing just four of 196 tackles (98% success rate).

If they replicate that performance, they’ll eke out a vital victory, which I’m tipping them to do.

Prediction: Glasgow Warriors by 2.

Suggested bet: Glasgow Warriors -1.5 at 1.81.

Lions v Stormers

Saturday, 12 February – 15:00

The Stormers are seeking a local treble after securing surprising wins over the Bulls and Sharks to climb to the top of the South African Shield, while the Lions hope lightning strikes twice after they stunned the Capetonians in December. The men from Johannesburg had come off three consecutive losses heading into that derby and are in a similar situation, back-to-back defeats to the Bulls leaving them last in the South African Shield.

The Lions would’ve targeted this home derby and the recent developments now make it a must-win. As a young team with few experienced leaders to offer composure and direction, handling that pressure will probably be problematic. They’ve been guilty of shooting themselves in the foot with costly errors and the added pressure will likely lead to more self-aiding misery.

With the Stormers hitting their straps and the Lions in a slump, expect John Dobson’s charges to claim a convincing win.

Prediction: Stormers by 12.

Suggested bet: Stormers -4.5 at 1.82.

Bulls v Sharks

Saturday, 12 February – 17:05

A breathless and brutal battle’s in store under clear skies (like the weekend’s other fixtures) at Loftus. The sides have had contrasting fortunes since their December duel in Durban, which the hosts won comfortably (30-16). The Bulls found their groove in their double over the Lions, while the Sharks regressed in their back-to-back Coastal derbies, drawing a match they should’ve won and lost in Cape Town last weekend.

Many have accused the Springbok-laden Sharks of arrogance. With our connections in the camp, we can assure you that’s not the case, however, they unquestionably lacked hunger this past Saturday and paid the price, slipping to second in the South African Shield.

This will first and foremost be a gut-check for Lukhanyo Am and company as arguably more than any other assignment, a clash against the Bulls demands matching the physicality and intensity of the opposition. Do that and they’ll have the momentum to unleash their star-studded backline.

Conversely, the Bulls have to find a way to front up better at scrum time after the Durbanites’ dominance in the set-piece laid the platform for their above-mentioned 14-point triumph. The availability of Jacques van Rooyen and Mornay Smith this time around certainly helps, but the Sharks are still set to have the ascendency in the scrums.

The Sharks were exposed at the breakdown last weekend and it’s here where I expect the Bulls to have the decisive edge. With their back row firing, individually and collectively, I’m backing the Bulls to edge a much-improved Sharks side.

Prediction: Bulls by 3.

Suggested Bet: Sharks +3.5 at 1.83.

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Author: editor

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