Two Big Overseas URC Games Could Have Major Impact On Log


Most South African attention will be on the two local Vodacom Rugby Championship derbies but there are two rescheduled overseas games to be played this weekend that could have a major impact on the standings at the top of the table.

There is a logjam at the top that is making it impossible to decide who is in the dominant position. The leaders, Ulster, will not be playing this weekend but could find themselves losing their pole position to Edinburgh, who are travelling to Dublin on Friday night to play PRO14 champions Leinster.

With the international players away on Six Nations duty, there is an element of unpredictability to the games being played in this phase. The Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian teams weren’t supposed to play while the international competition was on, but the URC organisers had their hands forced by Covid postponements.

Leinster have lost two of their last three games and almost their entire first-choice team plays for Ireland. So Leinster, currently fourth behind Ulster, second-placed Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, could be vulnerable, even though they are playing on their home field at the RDS Stadium in Dublin. This is an occasion where Leinster’s much spoken about depth will be tested. The same can be said for Edinburgh though, as they provide a good proportion of the Scotland national team that started their Six Nations campaign so impressively against England last weekend.

Edinburgh, coached by former Scotland captain Mike Blair, face a tough challenge as they haven’t won against Leinster in Dublin in their last 18 attempts. They haven’t won in the Irish capital since winning 27-13 in Donnybrook in 2005.

Leinster have lost only one of their last nine games against Scottish opposition, and just two of the last nine against Edinburgh, who beat them in Edinburgh in 2018 and 2019.

In the other overseas URC game, also to be played on Friday, Glasgow Warriors host Johan van Graan’s Munster at The Scotstoun, and again the result of this game could have a significant impact on the log standings. Munster can get into the top four for the first time in a while if they win this away game, while Glasgow could go joint first if Edinburgh slip up and they manage to win against Muster with a bonus point.

Glasgow is chasing a fourth successive victory against all URC opponents and while they have won only two of their last 13 fixtures against Irish provinces, both of those victories came during the last eight months.

Munster are in fine form, having lost only one game since October - a 10-8 reversal against Connacht in Galway - and they are unbeaten against Scottish sides since November 2019. In terms of the head-to-head against Glasgow, Munster has only lost just two of the last seven in the URC, although both of those defeats were at Scotstoun.

At the other end of the log, the South African teams are battling to be the crayfish that escape the other crayfish trying to drag them back into the net. The DHL Stormers, top of the South African Shield by two points, will look to cap an impressive sequence of games against the rated Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks teams by winning against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg in the earlier of the two games, while the Bulls and the Sharks square up in Pretoria in the late game.

With a solitary away trip to various overseas venues up next for the South African teams followed by an extended sequence of games against the northern sides at home, the local sides might start to take more interest in what is happening at the top of the table.

Although all of them are lagging well off the pace at present, with the Stormers still 12 points behind fourth-placed Leinster, they do have at least one game in hand on most of the top teams, and they will expect to have success in the home leg.

Rescheduled round of overseas Vodacom URC derbies

Leinster v Edinburgh (Dublin, Friday 20.00)
Glasgow v Munster (Glasgow, Friday 22.15)

South African Vodacom URC derbies

Emirates Lions v DHL Stormers (Johannesburg, Saturday 15.00)
Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks (Pretoria, Saturday 17.05)