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PREVIEW: Round 4 of the URC sees the SA sides on the road with the Sharks tackling Leinster

The Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers are all overseas in round four of the URC this weekend.

The Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers are all overseas in round four of the URC this weekend.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone


Friday 7 October

Connacht 17/10 | Draw 20/1 | Munster 51/100

Connacht have endured a season to forget so far, losing all three of their matches and generally lacking any kind of cohesion with ball in hand. The Westerners are rock bottom of the standings without a single point to show for their efforts after defeats in Belfast, Cape Town and Pretoria.

That said, this will be their first home game of the campaign and they’ll be buoyed by the knowledge that they won this fixture in January by two-points.

Munster have been pretty dismal too, occupying 10th after two opening losses away from home. They stopped the rot with a 21-5 win over a good Zebre outfit at Thomond Park in the previous round and will need to maintain that momentum with probably the toughest fixture list heading into the new year of any team.

The Red Army will need all the points they can get with matches against the Bulls, Leinster, Ulster and a Champions Cup clash with Toulouse on the horizon. That should be enough to spur them into action here.

Edinburgh 1/4 | Draw 22/1 | Lions 3/1

Considering their poor run on the road last season, the fact that the Lions have already claimed two wins from two in Europe over the past fortnight is cause for much optimism within the camp. With five-straight home games to come, another victory in the Scottish capital on Friday will set them up wonderfully following that opening round loss to the Bulls.

After a 44-6 round one defeat of Dragons at the DAM Health Stadium, Mike Blair’s men are reeling from successive losses to the Bulls and Stormers in South Africa. They sit ninth but can break into the top half with victory this weekend, and the presence of a returning Emiliano Boffelli will only add to their arsenal.

The Lions have had a good run overseas but that should come to a halt here.

Saturday 8 October

Zebre 9/2 | Draw 33/1 | Stormers 2/13

Despite copping three defeats from three so far, Zebre have been arguably the most improved team of the competition. They were edged 29-33 by Leinster and 37-42 by the Sharks in the opening two rounds in Parma, before succumbing to a 21-5 loss at Thomond Park last week. For a side that finished bottom of the tournament standings last time out and are generally regarded as perennial easy-beats, their form this season has been a welcome surprise.

For all the positives though, Fabio Roselli’s men could struggle against a Stormers team set to welcome back one Damian Willemse this weekend. The defending champs won’t have it all their own way but should have too much for the Italian side here.

Leinster 1/6 | Draw 35/1 | Sharks 4/1

Leinster head into this weekend’s clash with the Sharks under a cloud of scrutiny. Despite winning three from three so far, there has been talk of “upheaval” at the club after it was announced that Racing 92-bound Stuart Lancaster and a number of other key figures will be departing the RDS over the coming months.

The Ws keep ticking over for Leo Cullen’s side though, and they recorded an important 20-13 victory in Belfast last week to occupy first-place on the standings. They are heavily favoured to keep intact their winning record in the comp here but should be wary of a Sharks team eager to prove a point this season.

The Durbanites followed up their opening 42-37 defeat of Zebre with a well-earned 20-19 victory at a vociferous Rodney Parade over Dragons a week ago. Despite not yet welcoming back their established Springboks, they’ll challenge the hosts but should ultimately be beaten.

Scarlets 11/20 | Draw 22/1 | Cardiff 15/10

Scarlets remain winless in the tournament after a draw and two losses from their opening three matches to date. Benetton beat them 34-23 in Treviso last week and, considering the quality of some of the players in their squad, they’ll be eager to hit back against fellow Welsh outfit Cardiff here.

After a good home defeat of Munster in their season opener, Cardiff were beaten 52-24 in Glasgow and 31-18 at home against the Lions last time out. The Welsh Shield is still very much up for grabs but based on the results of clubs from the region so far, there’s a good chance they could struggle to qualify for the Champions Cup again this season.

In any case, get on the hosts here.

Ulster 1/9 | Draw 28/1 | Ospreys 11/2

Following their home loss to Leinster last week, Ulster will be eager to hit back hard here. Dan McFarland’s men will still be right in the mix for the title this season but their recent defeat will cut deep. Theirs is a side tired of playing second fiddle to their southern rivals and who long for a first Celtic League/ URC championship since 2006.

Eighth-placed Ospreys have a win, loss and draw to show for their start to the season. That first victory came over Glasgow in Swansea last week but they could find themselves outgunned by a hurting Ulster outfit on Saturday.

Get on the hosts.

Glasgow 5/4 | Draw 20/1 | Bulls 13/20

Glasgow’s poor away form has continued this season and so far they’re one from three – the two losses coming on the road. They’re back at home this weekend and they’ll need all the support they can get with Jake White’s Bulls visiting the Scotstoun.

The men in blue have claimed the scalps of the Lions, Edinburgh and Connacht already but, after the return of a number of Springboks against the Irish province last week, have left SA shores without injured trio Sbu Nkosi, Canan Moodie and Johan Grobbelaar.

They should still outmuscle an indifferent Warriors outfit here though.

Sunday 9 October

Benetton 1/10 | Draw 28/1 | Dragons 6/1

Benetton have been great so far, beating Glasgow and Scarlets at home with a defeat at Leinster sandwiched in-between. Marco Bortolami’s charges clearly have high expectations of themselves this season and it’s great to see them, along with fellow Italian outfit Zebre, looking so good. Long may it continue.

… which it should this weekend. Dragons too have been much-improved, beating Munster at Rodney Parade before narrowly falling to the Sharks last week.

They look certain to collect more wins this season, but they may be outdone by the hosts on Sunday.
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