Crunch time for Vodacom URC playoff hopefuls

May 16 • General News, International, National, South Africa, United Rugby Championship • 57 Views • Comments Off on Crunch time for Vodacom URC playoff hopefuls

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Three of the four South African franchises will have everything to play for on Saturday when they take the field in the penultimate pool round of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship where their eyes will be set firmly on keeping alive their playoff aspirations.

While the Vodacom Bulls still have a chance of finishing in the top two for a home quarter-final and possible home semi-final, the DHL Stormers still harbour hopes of a top four finish for a home quarter-final. Both sides, however, must win both their remaining games and hope that a few other results go their way to assist their cause.

The Emirates Lions, meanwhile, are still in the running for a quarter-final spot, but with the team trailing the eighth-placed Benetton by four points and tied on log points with the ninth-placed Connacht – but far behind on points’ difference – they face a strong challenge to make the cut.

The Vodacom Bulls – who are currently in fourth place on the log – can do their Gauteng neighbours a big favour when they host Benetton in Pretoria in the first outing for the SA sides on a jam-packed Saturday. The Emirates Lions will meet the Glasgow Warriors in Johannesburg, the DHL Stormers play away against Connacht in Ireland, and the Hollywoodbets Sharks take on Cardiff in Durban.

The Vodacom Bulls will enter their clash against Benetton at Loftus Versfeld as the favourites on form and with home ground advantage counting in their favour, but they will be wary of the Italians who will give everything to remain in contention for a playoff spot. The visitors’ last-gasp 25-24 victory against a determined Hollywoodbets Sharks side in Durban last week will also be fresh in their minds.

The fact that the Pretoria outfit have only won one more match than Benetton in their 16 outings so far this season is expected to spice up the clash.

The Vodacom Bulls will draw inspiration from the fact that they are the best attacking team in the competition with 557 points scored to 345 by the opposition, but the visitors have been more effective on defence with 46 points fewer conceded to date.

The Emirates Lions face a massive task against the log-leading Glasgow Warriors at Emirates Airline Park where the home team will be fighting to remain in the running for a quarter-final spot, while the Scots will do everything to remain at the top of the standings – where they currently hold a narrow one-point lead over Leinster.

With the Gauteng side coming off a morale-boosting bonus point 34-13 victory against Cardiff and having the luxury of playing at home, they will enter the match with the attitude that they have nothing to lose. Adding to this, the teams are closely matched in terms of attacking statistics, but the Emirates Lions will look to build on the solid effort they delivered on attack and defence last week to create what would be one of the biggest upsets of the weekend if they come away with a victory.

The DHL Stormers will have their work cut out in a repeat of their semi-final last season against Connacht at Dexcom Stadium in Galway, where the hosts will be determined to bounce back strongly after suffering a heavy defeat against Munster last week to stay in playoff contention. The Capetonians, however, will take confidence from the fact that they outplayed the Dragons in Newport last week, and with the stakes high for both teams, neither side is expected to give an inch.

With the DHL Stormers – who came up short by 19-17 the last time they visited Galway, in February 2022 – boasting a better attack and defence this season, they will certainly back themselves going into the match, but Connacht have been solid at home this season, suffering only two defeats – one of which was by a narrow two points against Leinster.

In Durban, the Hollywoodbets Sharks and Cardiff will both be playing for pride after being knocked out of the playoff race. The two teams are tied on 25 log points – although the Durbanites are ahead of the Welsh side by one place on the standings in 12th place – and it could prove to be a spectacle.

Neither team can advance beyond 12th place on the standings this season given their log points, but the winner will finish the round in the higher ranking, which will serve as an extra motivational force following their defeats last week.

Spicing things up, the teams are not far off from one another in terms of points scored and conceded, meaning it could be a tight match.

 

Match information:

Vodacom Bulls v Benetton

Date: Saturday, 18 May

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Referee: Hollie Davidson

SA Time: 14h00

TV: SuperSport

 

Emirates Lions v Glasgow Warriors

Date: Saturday, 18 May

Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

Referee: Craig Evans

SA Time: 16h05

TV: SuperSport

 

Connacht v DHL Stormers

Date: Saturday, 18 May

Venue: Dexcom Stadium, Galway

Referee: Federico Vedovelli

SA Time: 18h05

TV: SuperSport

 

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Cardiff

Date: Saturday, 18 May

Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban

Referee: Frank Murphy

SA Time: 18h15

TV: SuperSport

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