United Rugby Championship: Predicting how dramatic final round will shape quarter-finals

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Munster's RG Snyman and Benetton players celebrating.

Split with Munster's RG Snyman and Benetton players celebrating.

The final round of the United Rugby Championship has arrived and with it comes lots of excitement around who will make the top eight.

Before the last weekend of the regular commences we had a go at predicting the results and what that will mean for the quarter-finals.

Leinster v Connacht

Leinster come off a heart-breaking loss in extra-time of the Champions Cup final at the hands of Toulouse last weekend making them a dangerous prospect in the URC. Of course, momentum is what they would have hoped for but it’s now a case of beware of the wounded buffalo as all their eggs are in one basket. Expect Leinster to come out flying in this one.

For Connacht, they may be mathematically in the race but a loss last time out may have put it a bridge too far for the Galway men. Still, it is an inter-pro derby and there will be fire in the belly – unfortunately, it will not be enough.

Prediction: Leinster to win by 15+ points with a bonus-point in the bag.

Glasgow Warriors v Zebre

The Scots have one of the easier finishes to the regular season and will be desperate to finish with a full house of points to give them the best chance of climbing up the top four. They have already secured a home quarter-final, so they can play with freedom at home.

It may be a dream situation for Glasgow but it’s a tricky finish for Zebre who have had another tough season. They are filled with pride and passion, however, so an upset is never ruled out but remains unlikely.

Prediction: Glasgow to win by 20+ with a bonus-point.

Stormers v Lions

This is a fascinating fixture in Cape Town where the Lions absolutely have to win to make the playoffs while The Stormers have already secured their spot. With only the top seven now qualifying for the Champions Cup thanks to the Sharks winning the Challenge Cup the hosts will be eager to finish on a high note and stay in fifth on the table.

The Lions have been giant slayers of late beating both Leinster, albeit weakened, and Glasgow at home where they scored four tries with a man down. There is a real togetherness in the side and they are looking deadly, especially with a smiling Sanele Nohamba tearing defences apart.

Prediction: Stormers to win by seven in a high-scoring affair with Lions claiming a losing bonus-point.

Benetton v Edinburgh

One of the biggest games of the weekend as it is a straight shootout for a seventh spot that has radically grown in value. Both teams will be relatively happy with their seasons but it is delicately poised.

Whichever team loses risks dropping out of the playoff should the Lions beat the Stormers or the Johannesburgers score four tries and possibly lose within seven points. Ultimately a win is required as it cannot be left to other teams to determine their pathway in the competition.

Prediction: Home ground advantage will prove valuable in such a tight fixture. Benetton to edge the game by five points or less.

United Rugby Championship quarter-finals predictions.

United Rugby Championship quarter-finals predictions.

Scarlets v Dragons

This game may not have an impact on the playoff or Champions Cup picture but there is still very much pride on the line in the derby to finish the season.

It has been a tough period of form for both side but the quality in the Scarlets is evident and certainly come into the clash as favourites.

The clash will also be the last for many of the departing players while others will have one last shot at impressing Warren Gatland ahead of the mid-year internationals.

Prediction: Scarlets by 10 points.

Sharks v Bulls

The plain view of this is 13th hosting second which should be easy to predict but that is very far from the case. The Sharks high-powered squad had been a sleeping giant for some time but has been awaken by silverware and no doubt will John Plumtree’s men be relishing the chance to remind the Bulls of how far they have come.

Jake White and the Bulls will be wise to this but will also back their form and quality which has been brilliant. A win secures the top two and a home semi-final if they get there and quite possibly a home final. Big game for the Bulls.

Prediction: Bulls to win by 10 points in Durban without a bonus-point

Ex-Springbok captain: Sharks ‘on the same level’ as Leinster and Toulouse

Munster v Ulster

Another classic inter-pro derby made even more intriguing after Ulster’s dramatic win over Leinster in the URC last time out. It proved the side can match up to anyone in competitions and now the red-hot champions lie in wait.

Like a well-oiled machine, Munster have hit their straps magnificently at the pointy end of the season and will look to nail down top spot in the competition. It is certainly within their reach as they play in front of their home fans. However, anything can happen in a derby.

Prediction: Munster to win by seven points.

Cardiff v Ospreys

Ospreys are the only Welsh team with a mathematical chance at qualifying for the playoffs and even then it is still a long shot. A full house of points and some other results going their way is what is required.

Standing in their way is Cardiff, fresh off a nice win against a weakened Sharks side a fortnight ago. Apart from that win, it has been a challenging period for the side who have just lost out on wins on several occasions. They will want to finish on a strong note.

Prediction: Ospreys will win by 10 points but will fail to secure a bonus point.

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