URC – URC Clubs Shine In EPCR Competitions




No less than eight clubs from the Vodacom United Rugby Championship fill the top two EPCR quarterfinal spots as both the Investec Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup move into the quarterfinal stages.

While the Vodacom Bulls demolished Lyon to claim their quarterfinal spot this past weekend, two other URC clubs were desperately unlucky as Glasgow Warriors and the DHL Stormers both narrowly lost their playoff games in results that could easily have gone the other way.

The Bulls were joined by Irish powerhouse Leinster in the Champions Cup quarterfinals as both look ahead to tough fixtures to move into the last four of the tournament.

The Bulls travel to Northampton Saints this weekend to take on the English Premiership log leaders, while Leinster host defending champions La Rochelle in a repeat of last season’s final after the French side squeaked past the Stormers in an epic game on Saturday.

In the EPCR Challenge Cup, URC clubs flexed their muscles, providing six out of the eight quarterfinalists for the tournament.

The big clash of the draw is likely to be Hollywoodbets Sharks hosting Edinburgh in their quarterfinal clash in Durban, with Scottish international Pierre Schoeman returning from injury for the clash.

It also sets up a tough return match after the Sharks beat Edinburgh two weeks ago but the prospect of a knockout game, coupled with the return knowledge that former Sharks coach Shaun Everitt has under his belt makes it more difficult.

Even Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi acknowledged this ahead of the game this week.

“The fact that it’s a quarter-final and a whole different competition makes it even more difficult. We know they’ll come here even better prepared than before,” said the Springbok double World Cup winner.

“We noticed last time that they were missing a couple of their key players, and had just come back from playing Six Nations. They’ll definitely be fresh and more challenging this time around. Especially with a coach like Sean Everitt (former Sharks coach), he knows how to prepare a team and bring them down here to Durban. They’re definitely going to come back stronger.”

The other all-URC clash is Italian side Benetton, who defeated the Emirates Lions despite being down to 13 men at one stage, hosting Irish side Connacht in a game that is likely too close to call.

Connacht’s up-and-down season may have hampered their URC log position, but few in Italy will deny that they are a tough side to face in a knockout game.

Ospreys travel to Gloucester and Ulster head to Clermont Auvergne in their quarterfinal clashes as underdogs but with enough firepower to cause an upset. 

And while the Challenge Cup is assured of two URC semifinalists, the Ospreys and Ulster fans will be more than hoping they make the semifinals an all-URC affair.

Investec Champions Cup (SA Time)
Bordeaux-Begles vs Harlequins (16.00)
Leinster vs Stade Rochelais (18.30)
Northampton Saints vs Vodacom Bulls (21.00)
Stade Tolousain vs Exeter Chiefs (16.00)

EPCR Challenge Cup
Gloucester vs Ospreys (21.00)
Clermont Auvergne vs Ulster (13.30)
Hollywoodbets Sharks vs Edinburgh (13.30)
Benetton vs Connacht (13.30)