No easy rides in the north in the Vodacom URC

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  • Post published:November 9, 2023

The Hollywoodbets Sharks, Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers will be looking to reverse their fortunes in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship this week, while the Vodacom Bulls face a tough challenge as they aim to stay in the top four on the log.

The KwaZulu-Natalians will be desperate to change their fortunes when they take on Zebre Parma on Friday. They languish at the bottom of the log and are yet to open their account this season, and John Plumtree’s team will know it won’t be easy in Italy.

Although Zebre Parma are still searching for that elusive first victory of the season, they have secured a try-scoring bonus point in their last four matches. The Italian club’s 15 tries are also the second most so far this season, only behind the Vodacom Bulls’ 20.

However, the Hollywoodbets Sharks will go into the clash with some confidence, having won all four their previous matches against Italian opponents, including a 42-37 victory on their only previous visit to Parma in September 2022.

The second match involving a South African team in the fourth round is in Cardiff on Friday night, when the Vodacom Bulls take on the Welsh club at the Arms Park.

Cardiff’s only victory in their last six Vodacom URC matches at their home ground was by 30-13 against Benetton in February, something that will give the visitors from Pretoria a bit of confidence.

The Vodacom Bulls also seem to enjoy facing Welsh regions as they have lost only one of their nine previous matches against teams from the Principality, in Llanelli in January, while Jake White’s team won 29-19 on their only previous visit to Cardiff Arms Park, in October 2021.

On Saturday afternoon, the DHL Stormers face a tough task in Treviso when they line up against Benetton, one of only three sides who are still unbeaten in the Vodacom URC after three rounds this season.

The Italian club have not been beaten in any competition in Treviso since March, with their victory over the Emirates Lions last weekend halting a seven-game losing run to South African opponents.

To compound matters for the DHL Stormers, who lost Springbok prop Lizo Gqoboka to injury last weekend, their only previous defeat to an Italian opponent was on their last visit to Treviso in their competition opener in September 2021.

After coming up short last weekend, the Emirates Lions face a reinvigorated Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday, after the Welsh club recorded their first win of the new season by 31-25 over Cardiff in round three.

The men from Johannesburg were forced to make two squad replacements, as JP Smith (prop) and Ruhan Straeuli (utility forward) were flown in to replace the injured Morgan Naude and Darrien Landsberg.

The Welsh club are on a roll at home, having won their last five Vodacom URC encounters at Parc y Scarlets, although they have lost their last two fixtures against South African opponents.

The Emirates Lions are still looking for their first win away from home in the Vodacom URC since their trip to Treviso last March, while they have experienced how tricky playing in Llanelli can be, as their only previous defeat to a Welsh region was on their last visit to Parc y Scarlets, in October 2021.

Other games this weekend are between Ulster and Munster in Belfast; Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors in Swansea; Edinburgh v Connacht in Edinburgh; and Dragons v Leinster in Newport.

Match information:

Zebre Parma v Hollywoodbets Sharks
Date: Friday, 10 November
Venue: Stadio Lanfranchi, Parma
SA Time: 19h30
Referee: Peter Martin (Ireland)
TV: SuperSport

Cardiff Rugby v Vodacom Bulls
Date: Friday, 10 November
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
SA Time: 21h35
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
TV: SuperSport

Benetton v DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 11 November
Venue: Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso
SA Time: 17h00
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
TV: SuperSport

Scarlets v Emirates Lions
Date: Saturday, 11 November
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
SA Time: 19h15
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
TV: SuperSport

Issued by SA Rugby Communications

Photo by Craig Watson/INPHO/Shutterstock