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PREVIEW: SA teams still finding their feet as week 2 of URC looms

We preview the second week of the URC with the South African teams still very much finding their feet in the competition.

Dylan Richardson of the Sharks - URC week 1

We preview the second round fixtures of the URC as the South African sides still look to find their feet in the new competition.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Friday 1 October

Connacht 53/100 | Draw 19/1 | Bulls 33/20

Handicap
Connacht (-3.5) 17/20 | Bulls (+3.5) 17/20 

Connacht’s opening match of the season saw charges go down 33-21 against Cardiff at Cardiff Arms Park. Andy Friend would have been fuming as ill-discipline let them down, with two players being sent to the bin in the final salvos of the game as the Welshmen ran away with things. The Bulls were clinically put to the sword by Leinster who ran in four unanswered tries in a 31-3 victory. However, the scoreboard doesn’t tell the full tale. Jake White’s men enjoyed parity in terms of territory and possession, but simply fell off too many tackles, with a meagre 78% completion rate. The Bulls should be far more competitive here against Connacht and could very well sneak over the line. 33/20 looks a good price. Take the Bulls on the + for a bit of security. 

Scarlets 1/5 | Draw 28/1 | Lions 38/10

Handicap
Scarlets (-13.5) 17/20 | Lions (+13.5) 17/20

The Scarlets were involved in a peach of a game last time out against Edinburgh, narrowly going down 26-22 to the Scottish side. Dwayne Peel’s men dominated the opening and closing stages of the game but were unable put in a full 80-minute shift something they’ll look to put right this weekend. Meanwhile, the Lions were made to sweat for their 26-38 win against Zebre. The Gauteng side was irresistible in the first half of that match, running in some stunning tries before capitulating in the second stanza. The performance of young winger Rabz Maxwane was particularly pleasing, but whether or not he’ll get as much joy against the Welsh side remains to be seen. Scarlets are rightfully favourites here and should get the job done with minimal fuss – get on the minus here. 

Saturday 2 October

Treviso 1/1 | Draw 20/1 | Edinburgh 86/100

Handicap
Treviso (+1.5) 17/20 | Edinburgh (-1.5) 17/20

While Benetton did manage to grab a win against the Stormers in week 1, we need to remember that the Cape side have been plagued by off-field issues which must surely be taking their toll on the team’s on-field performances. Edinburgh, meanwhile, were full value for their opening-day win over Scarlets with Darcy Graham’s performance on the wing for the Scottish side catching the eye. I’m all over Edinburgh here, massive value at 86/100.

Glasgow 23/100 | Draw 24/1 | Sharks 34/10

Handicap
Glasgow (-9.5) 17/20 | Sharks (+9.5) 17/20

The Warriors dominated almost every facet of their game against Ulster, but still managed to go down 35-29 at the Kingspan. With over 60% possession and territory, you’d expect better but credit must go to Ulster who defended ferociously, boasting a tackle success rate of 91% at the final whistle. The Sharks, meanwhile, were hammered 42-17 at Thomond Park by Munster. Having said that, the Irish side did manage two very late tries to add some gloss to the scoreline. The KZN side, who are without their Springboks, showed moments of brilliance but gave away far too many penalties to remain in the hunt. If they can bring the penalty count down (17 last week), they should be far more competitive. Another thing to keep in mind here is that the Sharks will be playing on an artificial surface for the first time here. Glasgow to clear the -9.5 cap for me.   

Munster 1/50 | Draw 43/1 | Stormers 12/1

Handicap
Munster (-25.5) 17/20 | Stormers (+25.5) 17/20

Munster were full value for their showing against the Sharks last week, running out comfortable 42-17 winners. They dominated every aspect of the game against the KZN side’s second-stringers and should have very little trouble turning over a Stormers side who actually played pretty well last week, despite going down against Benetton Treviso. You simply can’t look past the Irish club here who should canter to victory, but the 25.5 point handicap is a bit too steep for me. Small play on the Stormers plus if you must have a go.

Ospreys 73/100 | Draw 20/1 | Cardiff 12/10

Handicap
Ospreys (-2.5) 17/20 | Cardiff (+2.5) 17/20

We’re off to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea next where the Ospreys are set for their second Welsh derby in as many weeks as they host Cardiff. The Ospreys’ job was made easier last weekend as the Dragons’ ill-discipline saw them play a quarter of the game with 14 men on the pitch. Cardiff, meanwhile, were excellent against Connacht, running out 33-21 winners. I’m all over Cardiff, I was really impressed with their week 1 showing and expect them to bag a second win of the season here. Have a go on the (+2.5) ‘cap at 17/20.

Sunday 3 October

Dragons 9/1 | Draw 38/1 | Leinster 1/25

Handicap
Dragons (+19.5) 17/20 | Leinster (-19.5) 17/20

Following a narrow loss in the opening round against the Ospreys, Dragons’ task gets that much harder as they welcome Leinster to Rodney Parade. The Irish club blew the Bulls out of the water last week, a result that would have given them immense confidence. Leinster should cruise to a pretty comfortable win here. Back the Irish province to clear the handicap. 

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