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South African are said to be up against major challenges against the Irish front. Image: Screenshot

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URC preview: Irish onslaught awaits SA franchises

South African teams are set to face varied challengesfrom the Irish front as they head into the fifth round of Vodacom URC.

17-11-23 15:59
United Rugby Championship URC
South African are said to be up against major challenges against the Irish front. Image: Screenshot

The Bulls and Lions will be looking to extend their winning runs in the United Rugby Championship (URC) this week, while the Sharks and Stormers will be looking to reverse their fortunes.

Three of the four South African sides take on teams from Ireland as they aim to improve their positions on the log – none of the Stormers, Lions and Sharks are currently in the top-eight.

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Bulls – who are at the top of the standings after four rounds – wrap up their tour with a tough match against Edinburgh in the Scottish capital on Friday night.

Honours are even between the two teams, with Edinburgh – who will be boosted by a great victory over Connacht last weekend – winning the first encounter by 17-10 in Scotland two years ago.

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Interestingly, two players who scored the bulk of the home team’s points on that day – Jaco van der Walt with three penalty goals and Henry Immelman with a try – have since joined the Bulls in Pretoria.

Last season, the Vodacom Bulls edged Edinburgh by 33-31 in Pretoria, despite the visitors having outscored their hosts by five tries to four.

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At the same time on Friday night, the Lions take on Ulster in Belfast, a venue where South African teams have yet to win, with the Irish province victorious in all five their previous home encounters against sides from the Republic.

Ulster also won a 10-try thriller in Johannesburg last season – albeit by only two points – while their victory last weekend over the defending champions, Munster, has shown they are serious contenders this season.

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On Saturday afternoon, the Sharks welcome Irish side Connacht to Durban, where the hosts will be hoping to record their first win of the season.

It won’t be easy though, as the team from Galway – losing semi-finalists to the Stormers in Cape Town last year – have started the season with three wins on the trot before a last-gasp defeat to Edinburgh last weekend.

The Sharks recorded an easy 41-21 win in Durban over Connacht in the opening season, but the Irish side know what it takes to win in South Africa after they beat the Lions in Johannesburg last season.

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Later on Saturday, in the final match involving a team from South Africa in the fifth round, the Stormers take on Munster in Limerick in a repeat of last season’s final, in which the Irish side ground out a heroic 19-14 victory in Cape Town, only a few weeks after they also won their league clash at Cape Town Stadium (26-24).

The Stormers’ last visit to Limerick also ended in defeat as they went down 34-18 at Thomond Park, with both Munster’s Springbok locks, RG Snyman and Jean Kleyn, scoring tries on that day.

Neither Snyman nor Kleyn, who played for the Stormers earlier, will be in action on Saturday though. Even without these players, a tough task awaits the Capetonians as they aim to turn their tour fortunes around, having lost 9-20 to Glasgow before going down 17-20 to Benetton in Treviso last weekend.

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Edinburgh Rugby v Bulls
Date: Friday, 17 November
Venue: Hive Stadium, Edinburgh
SA Time: 21h35
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
TV: SuperSport

ALSO READ | URC team-by-team guide: Bulls

Ulster v Lions
Date: Friday, 17 November
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
SA Time: 21h35
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TV: SuperSport

ALSO READ | URC team-by-team guide: Lions

Sharks v Connacht
Date: Saturday, 17 November
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
SA Time: 17h00
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
TV: SuperSport

ALSO READ | URC team-by-team guide: Sharks

Munster v Stormers
Date: Saturday, 17 November
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
SA Time: 19h15
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
TV: SuperSport

ALSO READ | URC team-by-team guide: Stormers

Stormers Peter O'mahony URC
Munster’s Peter O’Mahony and Ruhan Nel of the Stormers United Rugby Championship. Mandatory Credit: Photo: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock