United Rugby Championship Week 7 Preview

United Rugby Championship Week 7 Preview

The URC returns this weekend, with five fixtures across the weekend that bring some exciting matchups, thanks to the COVID restrictions lifting. It finally seems like we will have a real URC now that the South African teams are free to travel, and it means this weekend brings some enticing encounters, all of which are rearranged games.

Bulls vs Scarlets

This game was supposed to be played all the way back in December, but the Bulls finally get the chance to play the Scarlets at their home stadium. It has been a difficult season for both teams, with the Bulls currently 10th in the URC, having lost more games than they have won.

But the Bulls come into the game in tremendous form, with back to back wins including a big win against Munster last week. Despite a red card with ten minutes to go, the Bulls managed a five point win against Munster, thanks in main part to the boot of Morne Steyn, with the 37 year old crucial to any success the Bulls might have this season.

But the Bulls squad also features internationals like Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis and Lizo Gqoboka. The Bulls look in great form to beat the Scarlets this weekend.

For the Welsh team, they have had an even worse season, currently in 12th in the URC and head into this game without Johnny McNicholl, Gareth Davies, Wyn Jones or Kieran Hardy who are all in the 23 for Wales this weekend. McNicholl is the team’s leading try scorer this season so his loss will hurt.

The Scarlets have just one win in their last six, with the Welsh team losing last week to the Sharks. The team will hope that Sione Kalamafoni, Steff Evans and Sam Costelow can step up. But the Scarlets may also have some big internationals coming back into the team.

Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams have both not been included in the Welsh team this weekend, meaning there is a small chance they could return for the Scarlets trip to the Bulls. It would be some welcome returns for Scarlets, who go into this weekend with hopes of getting a result against tough opposition.

It should be a pretty tough encounter for both teams, with both struggling for form and still in the hunt for the quarter final places. It should be a close but exciting game.

Glasgow Warriors vs Edinburgh

Scotland’s two teams are both having excellent seasons so far, with Glasgow currently sitting in fourth and Edinburgh in fifth. Both are performing well above expected and a win for either team this weekend could go a big way in securing a place in the top eight and a place in the quarter finals.

For the home team, they are coming off the back of probably their worst game of the season, a 25 point loss to 12th placed Scarlets. It was a very disappointing loss for Glasgow, who prior to last weeks game had not lost in the URC since the end of November last year.

A big reason for the Warriors loss how different the team looked. Ali Price, Zander Fagerson, Matt Fagerson, Sione Tuipulto, Sam Johnson, Rory Darge, George Turner and many other players have missed games due to the Six nations. Their team last week was very different to their strongest team.

But despite this, Glasgow still have a strong team. Duncan Weir has been good since his return to Glashow this season, and the Warriors will have leading point scorer Ross Thompson to call on this weekend, likely off the bench. Glasgow should still have a strong team heading into this weekends all Scottish tie.

Edinburgh are also having a good season, currently tied on points with their Scottish counterparts. Edinburgh’s good form comes off the back of missing out on the playoffs in the Pro 14 last season. But Mike Blair’s team look like a certainty for the quarter finals, currently ten points above ninth placed Connacht.

A big reason for that was a resounding 56-8 win over Connacht in their last game, with seven different players scoring. In seems as though Edinburgh have not been hit as hard by the Six Nations. But they will still be without Hamish Watson, WP Nel, Pierre Schoeman and Darcy Graham who will all be with Scotland.

Their team for this weekends game is an interesting one, with Ben Vellacott and Magnus Bradbury on the bench as Edinburgh look to a slightly different group of players to help them get over the line in a huge game between the two Scottish teams in the URC.

Lions vs Munster

As we move to Saturday, two teams at opposite ends of the table clash at midday, with Munster traveling to take on the Lions. For the Lions, it has been a particularly though, COVID interrupted season, currently sitting 14th in the URC, having won only three of their games so far this season.

Unfortunately for the Lions, an ultra-competitive URC has seemingly gotten the better for their squad which lacks serious superstar talent. The Lions do have a few former internationals to call on for this weekend. Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts make up a reasonably talented group of forwards.

Jamba Ulengo is a good addition on the wing, but the team struggles particularly in the backs. Losing Courtnall Skosan and Gianni Lombard was clearly big for the team, and the Lions have not been able to take advantage of the golden era of South African rugby.

But the Lions come into this game in good form, winning their last game. The Lions comfortably beat Cardiff at home last weekend, running out 37-20 victors. The Lions were able to control the game well, really pulling away from Cardiff in the second half. They will need a similar performance to have any chance this weekend.

Munster on the other hand, currently sit in third in the URC, almost certainly securing their place in the quarter finals. In fact, a win this weekend could take them within a game of top two teams Leinster and Ulster. Munster have won eight games already this season, as well as scoring the second most points in the URC.

But the team come into this game off the back of a disappointing loss to the Bulls last Saturday. This is a Bulls team who currently sit in tenth in the URC. It was a surprising sad loss, with Munster’s second half comeback not enough for the team to defeat the Bulls.

Of course, the Bulls will not have been nearly as badly affected by the Six Nations as Munster. Munster will be missing David Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Joey Carbery all being named in the Irish team to take on Scotland this weekend.

But it certainly does not mean the Munster team will be without talent. In fact, last weekends team that lost to the Bulls featured renowned names like Niall Scannell, Simon Zebo, Damian de Allende and Mike Haley. Still plenty of talent for what has previously been the best coached team in Ireland.

So it could be the case that playing at home has an incredibly advantage for the South African teams and this could be the case this weekend. Munster are the better team, but rugby can always throw up a surprise.

Sharks vs Zebre

Another of the rescheduled games sees bottom of the URC Zebre make the trip down to South Africa, to take on the sixth placed Sharks. In fact, the Sharks come into this game in brilliant form, having won their last five matches, three of those in the URC.

The Sharks are currently the top South African team in the countries first season in the URC. Sharks have been particularly good in the last six weeks, with most of the other teams in the URC struggling without their international players, who will be at the Six Nations.

But this is of course not the case for the Sharks. Their wealth of international talent has been on full display over the last few weeks. The teams win last week was a second half demolishing, having been 13-6 down after 47 minutes. Their win last week was powered by South African players like Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi.

For Zebre, they will be going into this game still looking for their first win in this seasons URC, losing all of their ten games so far this season, with only two points in the competition. One of those points came two weeks ago as they lost by five points to the Ospreys.

It is not going to be easy this weekend, with Zebre missing out on international players like Luca Bigi, David Sisi and Alessandro Fusco. It may not be a huge amount of losses, but Zebre don’t have that much talent to call on anyway.

Zebre do have some internationals to call on, with lots of players in their squad having played for Italy and a few other internationals including Eduardo Bello. It is going to be an incredibly tough time for the Italian team. They have scored the least points of any team in the URC, as well as conceding the most.

They don’t have a lot of talent to call on. Leading points scorer Antionio Rizzi has only scored 32 points across the teams ten games. They will also hope for attacking players like Pierre Bruno and Asaeli Tuivuaka to have big games this weekend. They’re going to need to have big games to have any chance of a hugely surprising win against the Sharks.

Stormers vs Cardiff

In a big season of change, Stormers seemed to be in a pretty good place. They currently sit in eighth, with a game in hand over seventh placed Ospreys. The teams game this weekend is an excellent chance to move even further up the table, against a Cardiff team who have not been up to form so far this season.

For the home team, the Stormers are coming into this game on good form, having only lost once in their last six games. John Dobson’s team have seen a lot of change this season. Bongi Mbonambi, Juarno Augustus and Pieter-Steph du Toit all departed before the start of the season. These were three big losses, but the team is still benefitting from international talent.

The team should still feature internationals like Stevn Kitshoff, Hershel Jantjies, Damian Willemse and Marvin Orie. The Stomers are a hugely talented team. But they also have another large advantage, with all of the South African teams playing exceptionally well at home so far this season.

That home advantage will make it difficult for a travelling Cardiff team, who lost in South Africa last week. Cardiff suffered a disappointing loss last week against the Lions, having kept the game close for the first 45 minutes of the match. It was a disappointing result for a Cardiff team who have not been great so far this season.

It won’t be any easier heading into this game. The Welsh side will be without internationals like Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Josh Adams and Uilisi Halaholo who are all in the starting 15 for Wales in their final Six Nations game this weekend. They are all big losses to a team that is already struggling this season.

One win in their last six games shows just how poor Cardiff have been and particularly recently. Although, Cardiff’s one win was an incredible result at home, beating table toppers Leinster by just two points.

But what certainly won’t help the side is that Owen Lane, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Aled Summerhill and Rey Lee-Lo all flew home to Wales this week after sustaining injuries in the teams defeat to the Lions last Sunday.

But it certainly is not all doom and gloom for Cardiff. They should still be able to call on former international players like James Botham, Lloyd Williams and Ellis Jenkins who all featured last weekend. They will need a monster performance this weekend to get any points out of South Africa. It is certainly going to be a tough test.

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