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PREVIEW: The Sharks host Glasgow while Ulster are in the Lion’s Den in Round 5 of the URC

The Sharks and Lions return home in Round 5 of the URC this weekend, while the Bulls visit Thomond Park and the Stormers are in Swansea.

Werner Kok of the Sharks - URC

The Sharks and Lions return home in Round 5 of the URC this weekend, while the Bulls visit Thomond Park and the Stormers are in Swansea.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Friday 14 October

Ospreys 19/10 | Draw 22/1 | Stormers 44/100

Ospreys (+5.5) 17/20 | Stormers (-5.5) 17/20

The third-placed Stormers will be made to toil against a hurting Ospreys side at the Liberty on Friday. Along with Leinster, John Dobson’s men are the only unbeaten team left in the competition and head into this one off the back of a solid 37-20 win over a good Zebre outfit in Parma. They could have the rug pulled from under them this weekend though.

The hosts are ninth after a 47-17 thrashing at the hands of Ulster in Belfast but remain a good team with some real quality.

Despite winning once so far this season, back the Welsh side to inflict a surprise loss on the Capetonians. If you’re looking for a bit more safety, take Ospreys on the (+5.5) handicap

Connacht 11/4 | Draw 22/1 | Leinster 29/100

Connacht (+11.5) 17/20 | Leinster (-11.5) 17/20

Connacht would have been boosted by their 20-11 victory over struggling Munster. That win marked their first of the campaign after three-straight defeats, but they’ll be up against it to replicate that result with Leo Cullen’s men visiting the Galway Sportsground on Friday.

After withstanding a major assault from the Sharks last week, Leinster put them away for good late on to finally record a 54-34 win in Dublin. They were undone by the Durbanites’ strike play from first phase more than once, and while they will look to remedy this going forward, it shouldn’t prevent them clearing the 11.5 handicap here.

Saturday 15 October

Lions 12/10 | Draw 20/1 | Ulster 7/10

Lions (+2.5) 17/20 | Ulster (-2.5) 17/20

The Lions have been one of the surprise packages of the new URC season. Their 22-19 win in Edinburgh in the last round meant they ended their overseas tour with three out of three to occupy sixth on the ladder with plenty yet to play for.

The Northern Irish outfit kick off the first of their two SA-based clashes at altitude. They bounced back well from their disappointing home defeat to Leinster by thwarting Ospreys aside last week and will look to maintain that momentum this weekend.

Even at altitude, I reckon Ulster should come away with the win here. 

Sharks 19/100 | Draw 25/1 | Glasgow 39/10

Sharks (-10.5) 17/20 | Glasgow (+10.5) 17/20

The Sharks were a mixed bag in their 54-34 loss in Dublin last week: they produced some absolutely gorgeous plays from first-phase but were found wanting on several occasions on defence. Still, not many teams put 34-points on Leinster at home, and they will take the positives going forward – especially with their internationals set to return this weekend (and a certain Bok centurion likely to debut).

The Warriors are two from four and head into this one after an eye-catching 35-21 defeat of the Bulls in Scotland. That said, the Scottish side have lost their last five consecutive away matches in all competitions, and that dreadful run doesn’t look set to end at the Shark Tank. The minus is perhaps a bit too high here. Small play on the plus. 

Edinburgh 17/100 | Draw 28/1 | Benetton 42/10

Edinburgh (-13.5) 17/20 | Benetton (+13.5) 17/20

Edinburgh are one from four after their 19-22 loss to the Lions at home last week. Despite the presence of several Test players in their ranks, things haven’t yet clicked for Mike Blair’s boys this season – though they have had to contend with tough trips to Pretoria and Cape Town.

Fourth-placed Benetton (three from four) have been superb so far and have been arguably the standout team in the comp pound for pound. I’m not expecting them to get over the line in the Scottish capital this weekend, but they should able to keep within the handicap if their early form is anything to go by.

Cardiff 1/3 | Draw 22/1 | Dragons 49/20

Cardiff (-8.5) 17/20 | Dragons (+8.5) 17/20

Cardiff are 10th after seeing off Scarlets 16-10 in a dreary old affair at the Parc y Scarlets last week. As was the case last season, the battle for Welsh Shield honours looks set to be a tight one with just five points separating first from fourth, giving Dai Young’s charges added incentive to win at home against Gwent-based Dragons here.

The visitors occupy 13th with one win from four but have copped two losses on the bounce over the past fortnight.

These all-Welsh encounters are always difficult to call. With that in mind, back Dragons to keep within a pretty steep plus here. 

Munster 56/100 | Draw 20/1 | Bulls 31/20

Munster (-3.5) 17/20 | Bulls (+3.5) 17/20

The Bulls should be confident of making up for their first loss last week at Thomond Park. Jake White’s men were soundly beaten at the Scotstoun in the last round but have the quality and mental fortitude to hit back in Limerick.

Graham Rowntree has endured a bit of a mare in his debut campaign as Munster head coach, losing three of four so far to sit 12th – who’da thought it?

The Bulls will feel particularly bullish after losing in Scotland, which could spell bad news for the hosts. Big value on the Pretoria side to win on the board at 31/20.

Scarlets 2/15 | Draw 33/1 | Zebre 5/1

Scarlets (-15.5) 17/20 | Zebre (+15.5) 17/20

The only two winless teams in the comp face-off in Llanelli in the final game of the round. Scarlets have been dismal so far, managing a draw and three losses to sit 15th with just four-points – level with their opponents this week.

While Zebre may be zero from four themselves, they have showed encouraging signs; almost knocking over Leinster and then the Sharks in consecutive weekends. Any positives are welcome for a team that managed just one win the whole of last season.

The hosts should win this, but clearing a double-digit handicap looks a bit beyond them. Get stuck into Zebre on the (+15.5) ‘cap. 

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