Vodacom United Rugby Championship action returns this weekend following a three week hiatus for the international window, with a Welsh invasion in South Africa for four exciting matches in Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg over the weekend.
The round kicks off locally on Friday evening when defending champions, the DHL Stormers, welcome visiting Scarlets to DHL Stadium for a clash that is scheduled to kick off at 19h00, and on Saturday at 15h00, the Vodacom Bulls host the Ospreys at Loftus Versfeld.
Sunday’s other two local games complete Round 8, starting with Emirates Lions facing the Dragons at Emirates Airline Park from 16h00, followed by the Cell C Sharks’ home clash with Cardiff at Hollywoodbets Kings Park (18h10). All the matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Friday’s night encounter in Cape Town between DHL Stormers and Scarlets is just the second meeting between them, with the blue and white hooped jerseys prevailing 26-21 at Parc y Scarlets at the end of May last season.
The home side will be hoping to kick on from their 31-22 away victory over the Emirates Lions during their last outing before the international break.
The strong and exciting Capetonian outfit have lost just once in this year’s campaign – a 24-30 reverse away against Cardiff on 22 October – but they have not lost at home since their 37-19 defeat at the hands of the Emirates Lions last December.
The Scarlets have won only once since April, when they clinched a 36-12 home win over Zebre Parma on 15 October, while their most recent victory over a South African side was the 36-13 home success over the Emirates Lions in October last year.
Despite that win over the team from Johannesburg, they do however face a daunting task in Cape Town where the defending champions sit fourth place on the log thanks to four wins and a draw for a tally of 24 league points, compared to the 15th-placed Scarlets’ nine points.
The Vodacom Bulls bounced back to win their last two fixtures since their 17-31 defeat against Munster in Limerick, which makes it 10 wins at Loftus since the Cell C Sharks beat them there 29-22 in February.
It will be the Ospreys who will have to work hard on the Highveld as their only victory since May was a 32-17 home win over to Glasgow Warriors on 1 October. The Pretoria outfit were victorious by 38-31 when the two sides last met in May in Swansea.
However, the light blue jerseys will be hoping to continue with their momentum following their 40-27 home win over the Cell C Sharks before the break. Five wins from seven have them on 24 points so far this season, in third spot on the log, while the Ospreys are lower down in 13th place.
That bring us to Sunday’s double-header in Johannesburg and Durban.
After a good tour earlier in the competition, the Emirates Lions will be looking to bounce back strongly after losing their last two matches, both at home, against Ulster and the DHL Stormers, and they have not tasted success in Joburg since beating Benetton on 30 April.
The tenth-placed Dragons are yet to register a win following five previous visits to these shores, while the ninth-placed Highvelders won the previous encounter between them 21-11 at Rodney Parade.
The last clash of the round is between the eighth-placed Cell C Sharks and Cardiff, who occupy sixth on the standings.
It will be a tough ask for the team from the Welsh capital as the KwaZulu-Natalians have won their last five matches at home since their 5-21 defeat there to Edinburgh in March.
But Cardiff will take some comfort from the fact that they are the only Welsh team to have beaten the Cell C Sharks, at the Arms Park just over a year ago, but they will also have travelled to South Africa with the knowledge that they haven’t won outside of Wales in the Vodacom URC since a trip to Benetton in March 2021.
DHL Stormers v Scarlets
Date: Friday, 25 November
Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town
SA Time: 19h00
Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
Vodacom Bulls v Ospreys
Date: Saturday, 26 November
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
SA Time: 15h00
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Emirates Lions v Dragons
Date: Sunday, 27 November
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
SA Time: 16h00
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Cell C Sharks v Cardiff
Date: Sunday, 27 November
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
SA Time: 18h10
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Other Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixtures – Round 8 (SA times):
Friday, 25 November:
21h35: Ulster vs Zebre Parma
Saturday, 26 November:
15h00: Benetton vs Edinburgh
17h15: Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
21h35: Munster vs Connacht