Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
7 Jan 2022
11:21 am

URC local derbies: Why the four SA sides have plenty to play for

Ross Roche

There will be a lot more than pride at stake when the action gets underway on 22 January.

Burger Odendaal of the Lions runs with the ball against the Stormers in a local URC derby game. Picture: Gallo Images

The upcoming four rounds of local derby action between the four South African United Rugby Championship sides are set to be vitally important with a spot in the European Rugby Champions Cup competition next season at stake.

The Lions, Sharks, Stormers and Bulls find themselves in a regional shield pool, where the team that finishes top of it will automatically qualify for the ERCC regardless of their log position on the URC log.

With the URC split into four regional shield pools, only the pool winners of each automatically qualify for the ERCC, following which the next four highest placed teams on the URC log will make it into the competition.

With all four SA sides currently sitting in the bottom seven places on the URC log, they face a massive uphill task to get into the qualification spots, meaning the pool winner may be the only SA side to qualify for next season’s competition.

This makes the coming derbies extremely important which could see a gap created between the teams if they have a successful few rounds.

The Lions are currently in pole position in the regional shield on 11 points, ahead of the Sharks on nine, Stormers on seven and Bulls on five.

The Lions and Sharks have both also already landed the first blow, after the Lions beat the Stormers in Cape Town and the Sharks beat the Bulls in Durban last month in the first derbies between the sides in the URC.

However that could all be turned on its head over the next four game weeks, starting on the 22 January, with the Lions set to host the Sharks and Bulls to welcome the Stormers in two Highveld derbies.

The Lions and Bulls then play a double header, with the first game at Ellis Park and the second at Loftus, while the Sharks and Stormers doing the same with the first game in Durban and second in Cape Town.

The local derbies then end with the Lions welcoming the Stormers and the Bulls hosting the Sharks, with the two Highveld sides receiving a slight advantage having all four of their derby matches up north.