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PREVIEW: The Sharks/ Ulster and Leinster/ Munster headline Round 6 of the URC

The Bulls will look to get back to winning ways at Benetton in the URC, while the Stormers tackle Cardiff in the Welsh capital. The Lions and Sharks are at home against Glasgow and Ulster respectively.

The Bulls will look to get back to winning ways at Benetton, while the Stormers tackle Cardiff in the Welsh capital. The Lions and Sharks are at home against Glasgow and Ulster respectively.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Friday 21 October

Benetton 29/20| Draw 25/1 | Bulls 56/100 (18:30)

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

The Bulls should be confident of getting back to winning ways here after kicking off their overseas tour with comprehensive defeats in the previous two rounds; first to Glasgow (21-35) and then Munster (17-31).  While their lineout and lack of intensity crippled them at Thomond Park in last week’s game, their physicality up front should be too much for their hosts on Friday.

Seventh-placed Benetton have been great so far this season, picking up three wins from five, but were thoroughly defeated (8-53) by a rampaging Edinburgh outfit in the Scottish capital last week. For all their improvements, I can’t see them withstanding a resurgent Bulls side.

The visitors should clear the handicap with ease for a first win on tour.

Connacht 9/20 | Draw 22/1 | Scarlets 37/20 (20:35)

Connacht (-5.5) 17/20 | Scarlets (+5.5) 17/20

Connacht might be 15th after winning just one from five, but it should be said that they haven’t exactly had the most forgiving run of games with which to ease themselves into the new campaign. They have already faced Ulster, the Stormers, Bulls and Leinster. They were undone 0-10 at home by Leo Cullen’s men last week but should have Scarlets’ number at the Sportsground here as they look to get their season on the right track.

Scarlets picked up their first W of the season last week in a 36-12 victory over Zebre at the Parc y Scarlets. The Turks have been disappointing too so far, occupying 13th, and are unlikely to overturn a hurting Connacht side on Friday.

That said, back the Welsh side to remain within the (+5.5)  handicap.

Saturday 22 October

Zebre 48/10 | Draw 28/1 | Edinburgh 1/7 (14:00)

Zebre (+14.5) 17/20 | Edinburgh (-14.5) 17/20

Saturday’s game couldn’t have come at a worse time for winless Zebre, who face the prospect of taking on an Edinburgh side fresh off putting 50 past Benetton. The Italians began their campaign with great promise, and they should yet claim one or two scalps this season – though it’s unlikely that will happen here.

Duhan van der Merwe was in fine fettle on his Edinburgh return last week, scoring twice as Mike Blair’s outfit ended their three-match losing run in emphatic fashion. In van der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Emiliano Boffelli, Edinburgh boast one of the most potent back threes in the competition and could run Zebre ragged this weekend.

Get on Edinburgh to clear the handicap with ease. 

Lions 7/20 | Draw 25/1 | Glasgow 23/10 (16:05)

Lions (-8.5) 9/10| Glasgow (+8.5) 8/10

Despite going down 37-39 to Ulster at Emirates Airline Park last week, the Lions continued to play some thrilling attacking footy. Ivan van Rooyen’s men are winning over plenty of fans with their style, not least due to the performances of youngsters like Henco van Wyk and Ruan Venter, who have garnered widespread acclaim this season. They will be hard to beat on Saturday.

The Warriors put in a good shift during the first half of their clash with the Sharks in Durban before ultimately succumbing to the hosts’ physicality. The match came at a heavy cost, with centre Sam Johnson breaking his jaw and loosie Tom Gordon tearing a calf, not to mention several other injury concerns to have come out of the trip to Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

The injury-depleted tourists shouldn’t be able to hold out the hosts at altitude and won’t stay within the handicap. Lions on the minus for me. 

Leinster 2/11 | Draw 25/1 | Munster 4/1 (18:15)

Leinster (-10.5) 8/10 | Munster (+10.5) 9/10

Munster’s wayward performances this season mean they enter this edition of their Irish derby with Leinster without as much momentum behind them as usual. The side are obviously still adjusting to new coach Graham Rowntree’s style, but given the quality of their squad, they should get there eventually.

The rivalry, dating back to 1879, has been dominated by the blue half of late – with the Leinstermen winning 15 of the last 18 matches between the sides in all competitions.

The Red Army were much-improved in their 31-17 win over the Bulls last week, and they will take some measure of confidence into the weekend because of that. However, they still won’t have enough to outdo Leo Cullen’s side at the Aviva.

Back Munster to lose within the ‘cap here.

Sharks 49/100 | Draw 20/1 | Ulster 7/4 (18:15)

Sharks (-4.5) 17/20 | Ulster (+4.5) 17/20

The Sharks’ second-half display against Glasgow was enormously encouraging for fans of the franchise, with the Durbanites’ Springboks coming to the fore in a big way to power them to an eventual 40-12 win. The forwards in particular, led by Eben Etzebeth, were positively brutal and pounded Warriors into submission.

Dan McFarland’s Ulster scraped home 39-37 against the Lions last week after withstanding a late fightback from the Joburgers. They won’t have to deal with altitude this week, and should challenge the Sharks for much of the contest, but the hosts’ power play should reap rewards in the final quarter.

Back the Sharks to win comfortably here. With their ‘Boks back in the fold, they should clear a very modest handicap. 

Cardiff 37/20 | Draw 22/1 | Stormers 9/20 (20:35)

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

The Stormers had to dig deep to claim their eventual 16-all draw with Ospreys in Swansea in Round 5, and the performance from the defending champions was ultimately highly impressive given the rain-soaked conditions. John Dobson’s charges can clearly play ugly when necessary and that will stand them in good stead when they take on Cardiff in what are expected to be similar conditions on Saturday.

Dai Young’s men have now won two on the bounce after seeing off fellow Welsh clubs Scarlets and Dragons on consecutive weekends. Those results have lifted them to eighth overall and first on the Welsh Shield, but they should suffer a setback this week with the Capetonians likely to win comfortably to extend their unbeaten streak to 16.

The Stormers will win well here. This handicap looks way too low. 

Sunday 23 October

Dragons 13/10 | Draw 20/1 | Ospreys 66/100 (16:00)

Dragons (+2.5) 17/20 | Ospreys (-2.5) 17/20

Despite beating Munster and being pipped by a single point against the Sharks, Dragons occupy 14th overall and sit fourth in the Welsh Shield. There have been encouraging signs this season and they will yet claim the odd win, but they should be overshadowed by their western rivals here.

Like their hosts this week, the Ospreys have won just once so far despite the obvious experience and quality in their squad. Their draw with the Stormers in the previous round has left them 11th but they should make up ground here.

The Ospreys will take this by more than three for sure.

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