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PREVIEW: Do or die for Saffa franchises in URC quarter-final weekend

The pressure is on the three remaining South African franchises – the Sharks, Bulls and Stormers – as the URC enters the play-offs. Shaun Goosen previews this weekend’s quarter-finals.

Lukhanyo Am and Marcel Coetzee - URC
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

The pressure is on the three remaining South African franchises – the Sharks, Bulls and Stormers – as the URC enters the play-offs. Shaun Goosen previews this weekend’s quarter-finals.

URC Preview

Friday 3 June

Ulster 7/10 | Draw 22/1 | Munster 11/10 (20:35)

Handicap
Ulster (-2.5) 17/20 | Munster (+2.5) 17/20

Ulster welcome Munster to the Kingspan on Friday in the first of two derby matchups this weekend. Dan McFarland’s side have again been all class this season, ending up third to qualify as a last-eight host. They face a Munster outfit who, like themselves, were dumped out of Europe by Toulouse and will be eager to make the most of another opportunity to claim a piece of silverware. While the Ulster crowd will be as boisterous as ever, Munster have a crucial psychological edge having won the two encounters between the sides this season; the last being a 24-17 victory in Belfast in April. It’ll be closely fought, but the men from Limerick should take this one in the end.

Munster look good value to get the job done in Northern Ireland. Get on the plus if you’re looking for a bit of insurance.

Saturday 4 June

Bulls 5/10 | Draw 25/1 | Sharks 16/10 (13:45)

Handicap
Bulls (-4.5) 17/20 | Sharks (+4.5) 17/20

The Bulls host the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday seeking to make amends for their two losses to the Durbanites already this season. Sean Everitt’s men claimed a 30-16 victory over the Bulls at Kings Park in December before winning at Loftus for the first time since 2011 in February following a 29-22 result. Thomas du Toit said this week that the Sharks know what to expect from Jake White’s side and, while it will be a tight one, the men in black and white should ultimately pip it. If the Sharks can deal with the Bulls’ grunt up front, they will come away with the result.

The Sharks have done the double over the Bulls already this season. I reckon they’ll make it three this weekend. Once again, if you’re not too sure you can get the Sharks at (+4.5). 

Leinster 1/14 | Draw 33/1 | Glasgow 13/2 (16:15)

Handicap
Leinster (-17.5) 17/20 | Glasgow (+17/20) 17/20

Glasgow will be up against it traveling to the RDS Arena to take on a hurting Leinster on Saturday. The Warriors finished the regular season in eighth and have it all to do here. The Irish giants, who last weekend fell to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup final, will be fuming and are highly unlikely to come unstuck twice in succession; especially against a Glasgow side currently on a three-match losing run.

The Irish giants are red-hot favourites here and are tipped to cruise into the semi-finals with minimal fuss. Leinster beat the Warriors by 16 points in Scotland earlier this season. I reckon they will do far better at the RDS. I’ll be on the minus here. 

Stormers 2/7 | Draw 22/1 | Edinburgh 13/2 (19:00)

Handicap
Stormers (-8.5) 17/20 | Edinburgh (+8.5) 17/20

The Stormers will be wary of taking Edinburgh too lightly when they get the final quarterfinal underway at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. The Cape side developed an unwelcome habit of losing many a Super Rugby playoff at home, and will hope that pattern doesn’t occur again here. Not that it should: John Dobson’s men have been playing some sparkling rugby of late and should dispatch of an Edinburgh team that has blown hot and cold recently.

The Cape side have been sensational of late, winning six on the bounce at home. Edinburgh are a good side but will battle to shackle this Dobson’s men. Get on the Stormers to clear this cap. 

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