Three SA teams hit the road as Vodacom URC picks up pace

Oct 27 • General News, International, National, South Africa, South Africa, United Rugby Championship • 65 Views • Comments Off on Three SA teams hit the road as Vodacom URC picks up pace

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The DHL Stormers will be looking to build on their strong start to the third season of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship when they host Scarlets on Saturday – the only game in South Africa with the Hollywoodbets Sharks, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls playing abroad.

Returning to Stellenbosch for their round two clash against the Welsh club on Saturday, the DHL Stormers would have taken notice of the big score posted last weekend by the Vodacom Bulls against the same opponent.

The Capetonians have not lost to the Scarlets and even though they will be without their captain Salmaan Moerat, who was injured last weekend against the Emirates Lions, John Dobson’s team will approach Saturday’s game with confidence after they kicked off the season with a full house of five log points in Johannesburg.

Playing at the Danie Craven Stadium has also been a boon for the DHL Stormers. They’ve hosted three Vodacom URC games there and are yet to lose in the picturesque Boland town. They have also only lost once before to a Welsh club – to Cardiff a year ago (30-24).

The Hollywoodbets Sharks face a different prospect altogether though, as they are up against Irish giants Leinster in Dublin on Saturday.

Playing Leinster in the Irish capital is never easy – they have only lost three Vodacom URC matches at home in the last two seasons – and the KwaZulu-Natalians will face a side keen to rectify matters after taking a big defeat last weekend in Glasgow.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks could scarcely have asked for a tougher start to the season. Last weekend, they faced the defending champions, Munster in Limerick, and this weekend they are up against a Leinster team that beat the Durbanites by 35-5 on their last visit to Dublin, in the 2023 quarter-final.

The visitors will probably be looking to assert dominance at scrum-time: last weekend, the Hollywoodbets Sharks won all of their attacking scrums; in contrast, Leinster conceded five scrum penalties.

The final match on Saturday involving a South African team – excluding the Springboks in Paris – is in the Scottish capital, where the Emirates Lions take on Edinburgh at Hive Stadium.

The Scots – who have lost their last six Vodacom URC matches against South African franchises – are still looking for their first win over Jozi’s Pride, having lost at home in the fourth round just over a year ago, and the previous season in Johannesburg.

While the Emirates Lions ran the DHL Stormers close last weekend, Edinburgh took a lot of confidence from their away victory over Dragons in Newport, where Scotland international and former Munster stalwart Ben Healy kicked 17 points, sending a timely reminder to the Gautengers that they must be disciplined on Saturday evening.

In the last match of the round on Sunday evening, the Vodacom Bulls face a tough exam at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast against Ulster, who will be determined on improving after being run close by Zebre Parma in Italy last weekend.

Had the Italians’ goal kicking been better, the result may have gone against Ulster, who also had two players sin-binned, something they know they can’t afford against a Vodacom Bulls side that started the season with the biggest win of round one against Scarlets in Pretoria last weekend.

Scoring nine converted tries on a hot day in Pretoria is one thing, but cold and rainy weather is predicted for Belfast on Sunday, and the conditions will probably suit Ulster better.

Honours are even between Ulster and the Vodacom Bulls in their two clashes to date, but the men from Pretoria will remember round 16 last season, when they were denied a bonus point in Belfast with Tom Stewart scoring a hat-trick of tries for the Irish hosts.

What’s more, the Vodacom Bulls have played Irish provinces in Ireland five times, only winning once – the 2021/22 semi-final against Leinster in Dublin.

Other games this weekend are between Ospreys and Zebre in Swansea; Connacht v Glasgow Warriors in Galway; Benetton v Munster in Treviso; and Dragons v Cardiff in Newport.


Match information:

DHL Stormers v Scarlets

Date: Saturday, 28 October

Venue: Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch

SA Time: 16h00

Referee: Sam Grove-White

TV: SuperSport


Leinster v Hollywoodbets Sharks

Date: Saturday, 28 October

Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin

SA Time: 17h55

Referee: Federico Vedovelli

TV: SuperSport


Edinburgh v Emirates Lions

Date: Saturday, 28 October

Venue: Hive Stadium, Edinburgh

SA Time: 18h00

Referee: Chris Busby

TV: SuperSport


Ulster v Vodacom Bulls

Date: Sunday, 29 October

Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

SA Time: 18h00

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi

TV: SuperSport

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