Sports Reporter
4 minute read
25 Nov 2021
11:20 am

Who the SA sides face this weekend in URC action

Sports Reporter

The Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers are all in action on home soil for the first time in the competition.

Stormers players huddle during a training session at DHL Stadium this week, ahead of the resumption of the URC. Picture: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

The United Rugby Championship returns this weekend and for the first time South African franchises will be able to play at home after four rounds away in Europe.

With good conditions expected, all four games will be keenly watched to see just how good the South African sides do against the touring sides.

Here is a breakdown of who the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers will be up against this weekend.

On Saturday at 3pm: Stormers

Facing: Zebre Parma

Log position: 16th

Record: Played 5, won 0, Lost 5

Where: Cape Town

The Stormers will be buoyed by a bunch of returning Springbok fringe players while Zebre face a tough task as they are still the only side in the competition still to register a win.

The Stormers were arguably the best South African side before the international break and don’t often get beaten on their home ground although they can’t afford to take the Italian team too lightly. But not having played since their 24-10 win over the Dragons on October 15 may see a bit of rust.

The Stormers lost their only previous fixture against an Italian opponent when they went down 22-18 to Rainbow Cup champions Benetton in Treviso in Round 1.

Zebre head to South Africa looking for their first win in any competition since beating the Dragons in Parma in February.

They have won three of their eight meetings with South African sides, their sole win in the country coming against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth four years ago.

On Saturday at 5.30pm: Sharks

Facing: Scarlets

Log position: 10th

Record: Played 5, won 2 Lost 3

Where: Durban

The Sharks are still smarting after losing their last tour game to Cardiff before the international break and will be chomping at the bit to kick off their home campaign in style. Fans will be hoping the home ground advantage will get them their second win after the Ospreys victory earlier in the season.

Seen as one of the two top SA sides, the Sharks have been poor by their own standards thus far, but will be wary of Scarlets.

Scarlets overcame Benetton 34-28 in a Round 5 thriller at Parc y Scarlets and both of their wins this season have been on home soil.

They have suffered just one defeat to a South African opponent — a 28-21 reverse to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in December 2017.

On Saturday at 7.45pm: Bulls

Facing: Munster

Log position: 3rd

Record: Played 5, won 4, Lost 1

Where: Pretoria

Undoubtedly the game of the weekend for SA fans, this one is a humdinger as the Bulls have been unbeaten at home since February 2020 but have not faced overseas opposition since then.

Jake White’s side face a tough poser, given their patchy form in the opening four rounds away and will want to use the altitude and home ground advantage to kickstart their campaign. 

Making it even spicier is Johann van Graan’s return to the ground where he grew up, was a ballboy and coached with a Bulls side that dominated a decade ago. Van Graan was overlooked twice for the Bulls job and eventually went to Munster, so the game will be deeply personal for him.

Munster are resting many of their Test players and the Bulls have decided the same, but there will still be a lot of talent on the field.

The Bulls have claimed a solitary victory so far, beating Cardiff in Round 3, while Munster made a flying start in the URC, putting together a four-game winning run before they came unstuck 18-10 against the Ospreys in Round 5.

On Sunday at 4pm: Lions

Facing: Cardiff

Log position: 7th

Record: Played 5, won 3, Lost 2

Where: Joburg

The Lions opened their URC campaign with a victory over Zebre, but struggled after that with some decisions going against them and have now had some extra time in the break to find their feet with a new coaching team.

There will be a lot of emotion in the side following the tragedy of their tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis, who lost his son last weekend and it is likely this will fuel their performance.

With Willem Alberts and Tiaan Swanepoel back, the Lions will look to use the altitude and good conditions for a fast game that they enjoy.

The Lions won their opening URC game but then slipped to successive defeats at the hands of Scarlets, Glasgow and Ulster.

Cardiff, though, have not enjoyed much recent success on the road, with a solitary win in their last five away games being a 29-20 success at Scarlets in May. But the Welsh side have lost only one of their last five encounters against South African teams while they have a 50 per cent success rate in South Africa.