Who can still qualify for Champions Cup knockouts - a guide

rugby16 January 2024 12:31| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Gael Fickou © Gallo Images

Eight clubs qualified - eight to join them as this weekend’s final Investec Champions’ Cup round will determine which 16 clubs go through and what challenges await them as the tournament starts to move to knock-out mode.

With four pools of six teams, four qualify from each pool while the fifth side drops to the EPCR Challenge Cup, and the side finishing sixth is ousted. So with one round to go there is still everything to play for.

We take a look at who has qualified from each group and the prospects for each team still hoping to qualify below:

POOL 1 - Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon (Both France)

Bordeaux-Begles: 15 points (3 wins)

Bordeaux have set some amazing records in the tournament so far, winning all three games and scoring more than 40 points on each occasion. They bashed Connacht in Galway, beat Bristol Bears at home and then handed Saracens their biggest defeat ever in a European competition.

With Mathieu Jalibert and Damian Penaud on fire, the team are odds-on favourites to challenge the likes of Toulouse and La Rochelle for dominance.

Lyon: 12 points (2 wins)

Lyon started their campaign with a narrow loss at Bristol Bears in Round one, but they grabbed two bonus points in the loss. Their narrow win against the Bulls and their big win over Connacht have made them the first team from the pool to qualify.

What about the Bulls?

The Vodacom Bulls have 10 points from two wins - at home against Saracens and away to Bristol Bears and need just one more point to qualify when they take on Bordeaux-Begles this weekend at Loftus Versfeld. The big question is: Which Bordeaux team will pitch up? French teams have been known to send second string teams for away games or will they want the points for a top finish at the end of the pool stages? Either way it should be a cracker and the Bulls haven’t been beaten at home by European opposition yet.

Bristol and Saracens have tough games against Connacht (away) and Lyon (home) and one will qualify, but it is tough to see both English teams qualify.

POOL 2 - teams qualified: Stade Toulousain, Bath Rugby and Harlequins

Stade Toulousain: Points 15 (3 wins)

The giants of EPCR rugby, they scored a massive amount of points in wins over Cardiff, Harlequins and Ulster, with the last game in Belfast looking like men against boys. It’s going to be hard to stop the juggernaut of Toulouse, and it is no wonder they are favourites for the entire tournament.

Bath Rugby: Points 15 (3 wins)

Johann van Graan’s time with Bath Rugby has been sensational as they are in the top 4 in the English Premiership and now have qualified for the Top16 of the Champions’ Cup as well. The team are a nuggety blend of players who never give up and Van Graan has marshalled an excellent coaching team around him. Their final pool game this weekend will show if they can compete with the likes of Toulouse.

Harlequins: 10 points (2 wins)

Even though Toulouse outclassed them, Harlequins bounced back and qualified with some sensational play. Andre Esterhuizen, Stephan Lewies and Tyrone Green continue to excel and they will hope to go further than the four quarterfinal stages they have achieved in their history in the tournament.

Who else can qualify?

Ulster were smashed at home by Toulouse and have five points, while Racing 92 have three and Cardiff two points on the log. Therefore all three can still qualify but with Ulster facing Harlequins away this weekend and Racing and Cariff facing each other, it will be a fascinating race to watch.

POOL 3 - teams qualified - Northampton Saints, Exeter Rugby

Northampton Saints: Points 14 (3 wins)

They secured their spot by smashing Bayonne 61-14 in round three and beat both Glasgow Warriors and Toulon in their other matches to be one of the form teams in Europe. Their three wins ensures they get home ground advantage in the next round.

Exeter Rugby: Points 13 (3 wins)

Three comeback wins from three, and a dramatic win at Sandy Park against Glasgow, a result that is still being debated across the competition, have seen Exeter qualify with a round left with wins over Toulon, Munster and Glasgow.

Who else can qualify?

All four remaining teams have a chance to qualify, but Munster and Glasgow look the most likely to pull through with eight and five points respectively. Bayonne has three and Toulon two, and while they are outsiders at best, mathematically it is still possible. An intriguing battle awaits with Glasgow hosting Toulon on Friday, Munster hosting Northampton on Saturday and Bayonne hosting Exeter on Sunday.

POOL 4 - teams qualified: Leinster

Leinster - Points 15 (Wins 3)

The Dublin powerhouse had no trouble qualifying and want to go one better than last season’s losing finalists. Their opening win at Stade Rochelais (La Rochelle) was one of their all time great victories, followed by top wins over Sale Sharks and Stade Francais (albeit a weakened Stade) puts them firmly in the next round.

What are the DHL Stormers chances of qualification?

This is truly the pool of death and by no means near knowing which four sides will go through. While Leinster have booked their spot, the Stormers and Leicester Tigers are second on nine points. La Rochelle were incredible in their win over Leicester this past weekend and are on seven with Sale Sharks on five. Only Stade Francais are out of contention with one point.

Given the Parisians are out, that may be good news for the Stormers, who haven’t won away from home for some time now in any competition.

Leicester host Leinster in an intriguing battle at Welford Road on Saturday followed by the Stormers quest against Stade Francais in Paris. On Sunday Sale Sharks have a mammoth task against La Rochelle, with the winner there set to qualify and the loser set to drop down to EPCR Challenge Cup.



Glasgow Warriors v Toulon (Pool 3, 22.00)

Connacht v Bristol Bears (Pool 1, 22.00)


Harlequins v Ulster (Pool 2, 15.00)

Vodacom Bulls v Bordeaux-Begles (Pool 1, 15.00)

Leicester Tigers v Leinster (Pool 4, 17.15)

Racing 92 v Cardiff (Pool 2, 17.15)

Munster v Northampton Saints (Pool 3, 19.30)

Stade Francais v DHL Stormers (Pool 4, 19.30)

Saracens v Lyon (Pool 1, 22.00)


Sale Sharks v La Rochelle (Pool 3, 15.00)

Toulouse v Bath (Pool 2, 17.15)

Bayonne v Exeter Chiefs (Pool 3, 19.30)