Are You Mad Enough To Bet On A South African Team To Reach URC Play-offs


With the United Rugby Championship approaching the business end of the campaign, URC StatMaster has been busy forecasting which eight teams will contest the play-offs come the end of the season.

Using StatMaster’s player data, combined with projections of likely playing squads for each game of the 2021/22 term, the URC season simulator suggests a possible outcome for each game using the same machine learning model URC StatMaster will be using to project the likely winner of each game during the campaign.

At the end of each simulated season, we record the results - who wins their shield or the championship, makes the play-offs and where each team lands in the final standings.

The process is repeated 5,000 times to give the probabilities of each outcome. Ahead of the South African teams' trip to Europe this weekend, we’ve taken a look at which eight teams the simulator has predicted will make the play-offs.

1. Leinster - >99% probability of reaching play-offs
Leinster went top of the overall table over the weekend and that is exactly where the simulator predicts Leo Cullen's men will finish, making them near certainties for a play-off berth. That said, Leinster's rivals have eaten away at their probability of going all the way. When we last ran the simulator before Christmas, Leinster were given a 97% chance of reaching the last four, 89% of making the final and 64% of winning the whole thing. Those figures are down to 84%, 66% and 52% respectively this time around, suggesting a more open title race than the data originally forecast. Leinster are, however, given a 93% chance of topping the Irish Shield - up from 80% last time around.

2. Ulster - >99%
Ulster's figures have not shifted too far from where they were at Christmas, meaning they have generally performed in line with predictions. They can be pretty sure of a top-eight finish and their 29% probability of reaching the semi-finals is third only to Leinster and Munster. Dan McFarland's men are rated at 11% to be crowned URC champions.

3. Glasgow Warriors - >99%
Glasgow have been in fine form and racked up their fifth consecutive URC win by beating Benetton last time out. They were given an 80% chance of reaching the play-offs before Christmas but are now even more assured of a place in the post-season knockout matches. Their probability of making the semi-finals has jumped from 32% to 61%, while they have a 28% chance of reaching the final and a 9% chance of taking the title. The Scottish/Italian Shield was in the balance last time the simulation was run, but Glasgow are now 80% favourites to top the pool - up from 53%.

4. Munster - >99%
Despite ranking fourth in the predicted table, Munster are given a better chance of reaching the semi-finals (65%) and final (33%) than Ulster and Glasgow, as well as to win the title (14%). Their figures have fallen away since Christmas, however, when they were rated as having a 55% chance of making the final and a 22% chance of becoming champions.

5. Edinburgh - 93%
Edinburgh are former leaders of this season's URC but have suffered back-to-back defeats in their past two matches. They have nevertheless strengthened their grip on a play-off berth compared to their figure of 78% at Christmas, while their chances of reaching the semi-finals and final have also increased to 36% and 11% respectively. As previously mentioned, it is in the Scottish/Italian Shield where Edinburgh have lost some ground, seeing their chances of topping the pool fall from 47% to 20%.

6. Cardiff - 65%
Cardiff's play-off probability has jumped significantly from 32% at Christmas to 65% and they are rated at 22% to reach the semi-finals. The simulator makes them 38% favourites to top the Welsh Shield, although that pool is far from a foregone conclusion, with the Scarlets and Ospreys still firmly in the running to come out on top.

7. Ospreys - 63%
The Ospreys are the most successful Welsh region in the competition's history, having won four titles, but they have seen their play-off chances fade since Christmas, according to the simulator. Toby Booth's men were rated at 71% to progress in December and 56% to top the Welsh Shield. However, those figures have since dropped to 63% and 29% respectively. Like Cardiff, they are given a 22% chance of reaching the semi-finals.

8. Scarlets - 59%
The Scarlets have jumped into the reckoning as one of the eight teams tipped to feature in the play-offs. They are given a 20% shot at reaching the semi-finals and a 7% chance of making the final - something they last achieved in 2018. The simulator rates them at 33% to top the Welsh Shield.

Best of the rest...
Connacht (37%), the Cell C Sharks (34%) and the DHL Stormers (33%) are the teams outside the top eight with the best chance of forcing their way in, and one fixture this weekend could have a significant impact on the simulator's predictions. If Connacht beat the Stormers in Galway on Saturday their play-off probability will leap to 47%. The potential gains for the Stormers are even greater, with their chances rising to 50% with a win. A defeat would reduce the teams' figures to 18% and 24% respectively. A win for the Sharks at Benetton would boost them to 44%.