URC Review – South African Sides Excite On Local Soil


A successful conversion by big Willem Alberts summed up the Vodacom United Rugby Championship weekend from a local perspective as the three South African sides playing at home ran amok against their visitors from Italy, Ireland and Wales.

The 39-year-old Alberts, who played 43 Tests for the Springboks at loose forward between 2010 and 2016, nowadays features at lock for the Emirates Lions, and he converted their last of nine tries in a 61-19 win over Zebre Parma in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

A few hours later, the Vodacom Bulls smashed Connacht by 53-27 in Pretoria, with the experienced Willie le Roux scoring one of their seven tries in his first outing for the team from the capital.

Finally, the Hollywoodbets Sharks put the cherry on top of a great day for the SA sides with their returning Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks adding the necessary impetus as they scored 10 tries in a 69-14 victory over Dragons in Durban.

The only blip was the DHL Stormers' 31-24 away defeat to Cardiff on Friday night, a match John Dobson (coach) admitted afterwards they had thrown away.

With one game to go in round six, the Vodacom Bulls have moved back into the top-four on the log with 20 points, behind Glasgow Warriors (25) and Leinster (24). The Emirates Lions are currently in ninth spot on 14 points, followed by the DHL Stormers in 11th on 13, while the Hollywoodbets Sharks have moved off the bottom of the log and are in 14th on seven points.

Later on Sunday, the Ospreys beat fellow Welsh side Scarlets 31-09.

DHL Stormers slip up in Cardiff

The Stormers let slip an ideal opportunity to record their first victory on their early-season Vodacom URC tour when Cardiff rallied late to win by 31-24 on Friday evening.

The visitors from Cape Town scored two quick tries to lead by 14-0 after only 13 minutes, but they somehow let that lead slip by making too many unforced errors and conceding penalties that cost them momentum, with Cardiff scoring the winning try in injury time.

Despite a better disciplinary record in the match and edging the hosts in the stakes for territory and possession, the DHL Stormers still slipped up, something for which they only have themselves to blame.

The Capetonians did earn a losing bonus point though, but that will be scant reward for a match they could have won.

Emirates Lions run riot against Zebre Parma

The Emirates Lions ran riot against visiting Zebre Parma, scoring nine tries in a big 61-19 Vodacom URC victory in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.

The hosts enjoyed 68% of the possession and had 62% territorial advantage, while they broke the Italians’ defensive line on 13 occasions and beat 32 defenders in the process, playing the kind of attacking rugby they have become known for over recent years.

Speedsters Henco van Wyk and Edwill van der Merwe landed two tries apiece and when replacement lock Willem Alberts stepped up to convert Emmanuel Tshituka’s try late in the game, you just knew the Emirates Lions had an enjoyable outing in front of their home fans.

Vodacom Bulls bounce back in style against Connacht

The Vodacom Bulls recovered from their Vodacom URC tour with a dominant victory against Connacht in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon, handing the tricky visitors from Ireland only their second defeat of the season.

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux, who was lured to Pretoria in the off-season, impressed the coaching staff during the week and made an impact to score one of the Vodacom Bulls’ seven tries.

Le Roux’s fellow RWC-winning Springboks, Marco van Staden and Canan Moodie, also made a difference for the team from Pretoria, whose victory saw them take a six-point lead at the top of the South African Shield and move them back into the top four on the standings with a third of the league season completed.

The seven five-pointers pushed the Vodacom Bulls’ overall try-tally up to 31, the best in the league so far, with Leinster second on 29, followed by Glasgow on 27.

Hollywoodbets Sharks impress against Dragons

The Hollywoodbets' six returning Springboks scored five of their 10 tries as they smashed the Dragons by 69-14 in their Vodacom URC clash Durban on Saturday evening.

According to John Plumtree (coach), the return of Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Ox Nche and Grant Williams provided confidence for the rest of the squad, which was just what the doctor had ordered after a tough start to the season.

The returning Boks gave the Durbanites a new spring in their step and helped them to make the tough Welsh tourists pay with a strong display as they built a proper innings.

Half of the Hollywoodbets Sharks' tries were scored in the final 20 minutes, when they opened the taps to record one of their best performances yet in the Vodacom URC.

Other matches:
Edinburgh 22-24 Benetton
Leinster 21-16 Munster
Glasgow Warriors 33-20 Ulster
Ospreys 31-09 Scarlets