Bulls the only SA banker on Super Saturday of URC action

rugby17 May 2024 06:41
By:Gavin Rich
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Ruan Nortje and Elrigh Louw (c)© Gallo Images

There are four Vodacom United Rugby Championship games all to be played in the space of six hours for SuperSport viewers to enjoy on Saturday, but there’s only one real South African banker in a round where there’s plenty of jeopardy and several games can go either way.

The banker is the Vodacom Bulls, who should cement their top four finish by beating Benetton in the game that kicks off the viewing fare at Loftus at 2pm. 

Benetton kept themselves alive in the battle for a top eight spot with their late win over the Hollywoodbets Sharks last week, but they were playing against a disrupted Sharks team and they sustained injuries in the process.

Loftus is also a significant step up as a challenge from Durban, with the altitude thrown in and a team that apart from one blemish against champions Munster have been in imperious form at their home fortress.

The Bulls game will be followed at 4:05pm by what effectively amounts to a cup final for the Emirates Lions, who will be gone from the race for a playoff spot and Investec Champions Cup qualification if they lose to the competition front runners, Glasgow Warriors.

With just one point separating them from second placed Leinster and two from third placed Munster, this is a must win game for the visitors too.

The Bulls and Lions games will be back to back on Grandstand and Rugby.

The equally important game between the DHL Stormers and Connacht in Galway will be on the Action channel, but Grandstand will switch over to the Stormers game after the Lions game is finished.

The Stormers game kicks off at 6.05pm with the Durban game between the Sharks and Cardiff kicking off 10 minutes later (6:15pm).

The Sharks game will be shown on Rugby after the Lions game, with the Stormers being featured on Grandstand because they have more to play for than the Sharks.


While the Sharks game is effectively a dead rubber, and features the 12th placed team against the 13th placed team, the Stormers will make sure of their top eight finish if they win at The Sportsground, which promises to be kinder to them in terms of weather than it was on their last visit there in 2022.

What might not be kinder is a Connacht team that is even more desperate to win than their visitors from Cape Town.

If the Stormers win, the Connacht challenge for a top eight spot is done and dusted. They know that. They are also aware they are playing their last game in front of a famous grandstand, The Clan, that has been part of Connacht folklore for generations. It will take a big performance from the Stormers to win.

Ditto the Lions in Johannesburg, while the Sharks are going in with a second string team against Cardiff as they prioritise next Friday’s EPCR Challenge Cup final against Gloucester at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

My money says the Stormers will win, but they definitely aren’t a banker, and neither are the other two local teams.


The plum fixture outside of the South African games is the last game to be played on Saturday, the crunch derby between Ulster and Leinster at the Kingsholm Stadium in Ravenshill.

Leinster have a score to settle after losing the first round game to their arch rivals in Dublin on the New Year weekend. It will be well worth every rugby lover’s while to continue the rugby feast by rounding off the Super Saturday of URC action by watching this game.

The rugby weekend starts with an equally important game between Edinburgh and the in-form Munster in Edinburgh on Friday night.

Edinburgh need to win to stay in the top eight, Munster need to maintain their challenge for top spot.

A loss for Munster will make them vulnerable to the Stormers’ ambitions for a top four finish with a tough derby against Ulster to come after this.


Zebre v Scarlets (Parma, Friday 8:35pm)

This is effectively one of only three dead rubbers this weekend, the Kings Park game being another and also the Ospreys/Dragons game, but is it really?

Zebre are perennial wooden spoonists in this competition, but have made some marginal improvements that make it just possible they might lift from their current position in the cellar to a couple of steps up.

Scarlets have 17 points, the Italian team has 15.

A Zebre win on Friday night will lift them clear of Scarlets and potentially the Dragons too. That’s some motivation for them.

Prediction: Zebre to squeak home win.

Edinburgh v Munster (Edinburgh, Friday 8:35pm)

Shew, this is a potential banana peel for Munster, who could still be vulnerable to the Stormers’ quest for a top four spot if they lose here.

Yet while it is an away game for them and Edinburgh are good on their home field, any team that can win at Loftus, and of course in Cape Town in a URC final, can win away against Edinburgh.

Munster are the form team currently.

Prediction: Munster to win by 8

Vodacom Bulls v Benetton (Pretoria, Saturday 2pm)

As mentioned earlier, the Bulls are the South African banker in round 17.

Benetton are made up of several international players, and did well to beat the Sharks last week.

Playing for Italy, some of the key players in the Benetton side have done well for their country recently.

But the win over the Sharks came at a cost in terms of injury. The early afternoon games played in bright sunshine also give the Bulls an advantage against overseas sides.

Not that they need an advantage for they are in imperious form when playing at their fortress.

Their one slip there was against Munster, but that’s Munster. They should be too good for Benetton.

Prediction: Bulls to win by 16

Ospreys v Dragons (Swansea, Saturday 4pm)

The Ospreys entered their last chance saloon in this competition when they went to Dublin to face Leinster last week and they didn’t come out alive.

The 11 points they would need to be in the frame for a top eight finish is just beyond them with two games to play.

So this is a dead rubber game, although you’d hesitate to ever call a Welsh derby a dead rubber. 

There are bragging rights up for grabs. And it is the Ospreys who should grab them - and with some comfort.

Prediction: Swansea to win by 16

Emirates Lions v Glasgow Warriors (Johannesburg, Saturday 4:05pm)

The Lions are one of several teams on a cup final footing this week. They played themselves back into top eight contention with their win over Cardiff, and a win against the tournament front runners will then give them plenty to play for when they go to Cape Town for their last game of the regular season on 1 June.

The Lions have scored some excellent wins this season but haven’t ever backed up.

This time they have no choice - back up or be gone. But the Warriors have lots to play for too.

With just a home game against Zebre to come, a five point haul from their trip to Emirates Airlines Park will clinch them top spot.

Prediction: Glasgow to win by 9

Connacht v DHL Stormers (Galway, Saturday 6:05pm)

The last time the Stormers visited Galway back in February 2022 they lost a tight game by just two points, and had plenty of reason to feel agreed at the refereeing.

They were severely disrupted by two yellow cards and also suffered from some marginal calls that profited the home team. Make no mistake, Connacht are a tough team to beat in front of their home crowd.

But the Stormers have grown since then, and this time they have a full strength team.

Connacht have grown too, and have been competitive on the log for most of the season. This will be a close game. The Stormers have the quality to win it.

Prediction: Stormers to win by 7

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Cardiff (Durban, Saturday 6:15pm)

It was Cardiff who effectively sounded the death-knell to Sean Everitt’s stint as Sharks coach back in November 2022.

The Welsh team are not great travellers, but were competitive after coming back from an early deficit before the altitude and their own indiscipline caught them late in their game against the Lions.

Given how comfortably they won on their last visit, Kings Park is a happy hunting ground for them.

And with the Sharks fielding their second string in this game, it could remain so.

Prediction: Cardiff to win by less than 7

Ulster v Leinster (Belfast, Saturday 8:35pm)

Given the history of the rivalry between these two powerful Irish provinces, this is arguably the must watch game of the round.

Leinster need to win to be in the frame for a top spot finish, and even then it won’t be enough if Glasgow win in Johannesburg. 

Adding to the edge in this game is the fact that Ulster won the first round game at RDS Arena over the festive season.

That was seen as a shock result and another win will be similarly regarded even though Ulster are playing on their home field.

This is a hard one to call, but Leinster, even though they may have one eye on next week’s Champions Cup final in London, have the pedigree to get through.

Whether it is with a bonus point or not is debatable, and they need that to be sure of being competitive in their battle for pole position.

Prediction: Leinster to win by less than 7


Glasgow Warriors 60 points, Leinster 59, Munster 58, Vodacom Bulls 56, DHL Stormers 50, Ulster 49, Edinburgh 48, Benetton 48, Connacht 44, Emirates Lions 44, Ospreys 40, Hollywoodbets Sharks 25.


• Bulls & Lions will be back to back on Grandstand (201) and Rugby (211)

• Stormers will be live on Action (210)

• Sharks follow Lions on Rugby (211)

• As soon as the Lions are done on Grandstand (201) we join Stormers as they are higher on the log and playing for that top 8 spot for the playoffs to come in June as well as Investec Champions Cup qualification.