This is the quarterfinal week in Unified Rugby Championship and according to analyst and former player Joel Stransky, only one of three South African teams will be happy this weekend.
In the big game in South Africa, the defending champion Stormers host Bullsin Cape Town in a repeat of last year’s final and last weekend’s Curry Cup clash (WP beat the Blue Bulls 31-7).
And now in the last match of the quarters sharks will play Irish giants and league leaders Leinster in Dublin – a huge request for the Durban men against a side that qualified for the European Cup final on Saturday by beating Toulouse 41-22 in the semi-finals.
In the other two quarter-final matches, Glasgow Warriors host Munster and Ulster entertain Connacht.
” Stormers have stalled a bit lately and lost momentum, probably due to the absence of Deon Fury,” Stransky said. “It just goes to show how important he is to the Stormers.
“But I don’t think there will be any panic among the Stormers. They won their last match (against Benetton) and will go from defeat to Munster (the week before). One or two losses don’t turn a really good team into a bad one. The Stormers are a great team, but the Bulls will push them.
“I think the Bulls and Jake[White]were trying to focus equally on every competition where they can now put everything into the URC (and then the Curry Cup). Now they are more determined and focused, and this will make them more dangerous.”
Stransky added: “The Bulls seem to be more organized lately. However, I don’t see how they will dominate against this pack of Stormers, break their defense while the Stormers back line is very underrated. I think the Stormers will obscure it.”
Drawing attention to the Sharks’ game against Leinster, the former 1995 World Cup winner said Neil Powell’s men had a “difficult task”.
“The Sharks game plan is too predictable. They fight for penalties, kick into the corner and kick. I’m not sure if they can put together 10 phases or know how to break a really good structured defense,” Stransky said.
“And without Sia (Kolisi) and Eben (Ezebeth) they will have to fight. Their game is just not right for beating Leinster.”
Regarding the Glasgow-Munster match, Stransky said: “Munster will lift his tail and R.G. Snyman will come back and they’ll be smart enough to go there[to Scotland]and win, but it’s going to be tough.”
What about the Ulster-Connacht match? “Ulster has gone unnoticed in this competition. They’ve won a lot of games (13 out of 18) and it’s hard to beat them,” Stransky said.
1/4 finals URC
Glasgow Warriors – Munster
Stormers vs. Bulls
Ulster vs. Connaught