United Rugby Championship Round 8 Saturday Preview


The festive season of United Rugby Championship competition is here with two high-stakes rugby fixtures on Saturday to excite rugby fans over Christmas.

 Excitement is building for the most eagerly anticipated games of the year for URC players, coaches, supporters and TV pundits as packed stadiums across Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Italy and Wales add to the Christmas spirit. 

As the first round of festive derbies approaches, as well as bragging rights and historic derby rivalries coming to the fore, the battle for the URC top eight maintains its intensity.

On Saturday there are another two big games across the Christmas long weekend with an Italian derby on Saturday afternoon as Zebre Parma hosts Benetton followed by a huge clash in South Africa as DHL Stormers host the Vodadom Bulls.

Zebre Parma v Benetton at 15:00 (SA Time)

Both teams head into this Italian derby on the back of notable Challenge Cup victories over French opposition.

Zebre won 21-14 away to Oyonnax, with the boot of fly-half Gerónimo Prisciantelli proving the difference between the sides, while Benetton defeated Perpignan 29-7 as Rhyno Smith touched down twice.

That saw South African full-back Smith become the Treviso team’s all-time leading try scorer in EPCR competitions.

DHL Stormers v Vodacom Bulls at 19:00 (SA Time)

This huge North v South derby is set to attract the second-biggest crowd in the Vodacom URC this season. More than 34,000 tickets have already been sold for the much anticipated Cape Town clash, amid an expectation of going past the 40,000 mark.

Only the Round 6 meeting between Leinster and Munster has drawn a larger attendance so far this term, with 49,246 turning out at the Aviva Stadium.

Both South African sides warmed up by figuring in extremely tight Investec Champions Cup ties last weekend.

The DHL Stormers came from behind to beat title holders La Rochelle 21-20 thanks to a nerveless late touchline conversion from Springbok fly-half Manie Libbok.

In contrast, Jake White’s Bulls went down to a 29-28 defeat away to Lyon after leading 18-12 at the break.