In a rematch of last year’s final, the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers are set to collide in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarter-finals.
The 16 competing teams put the final touches on the 2022-23 Vodacom URC playoff picture on Friday and Saturday, when the Vodacom Bulls, Stormers and Lions all secured wins, while the Sharks had to settle for a draw.
The Stormers’ 38-22 bonus-point win over Benetton in Stellenbosch was not enough for the defending champions to secure second place and Ulster beat Edinburgh 28-14 to finish behind log-leaders Leinster.
The Vodacom Bulls ended the regular season with a 62-7 demolition job of a second-string Leinster lineup, handing the Irish side their biggest-ever loss. Glasgow Warriors held on to beat Connacht 29-27 in the final match of round 18 which secured sixth place for the Vodacom Bulls.
In a playoff format where the top seed plays the eighth seed, the third-placed Stormers will host the sixth-placed Bulls in the quarter-finals.
The Sharks, however, face a much tougher road through the playoffs after surrendering a 19-point lead in a 22-22 draw with Munster. Finishing in eighth place means that the coastal side will have to travel to Dublin to take on Leinster in the quarter-finals, with the hosts likely to be back to full strength and loaded with Ireland internationals.
With the Sharks having to surrender their place in next season’s Champions Cup to 10th-placed Cardiff, winners of the Welsh Shield, their only hope of qualifying for Europe’s premier cup competition is to go all the way and win the URC title.
Meanwhile, the Lions, who went into the round 18 unable to reach the final eight, saw off winless Zebre in a 12-try 50-35 shootout at Loftus Versfeld. A three-point deficit between the Lions and the Sharks saw the Johannesburg side fall agonisingly short of progressing to the quarter-finals in their second URC campaign.
Quarter-finals (Times TBC):
Glasgow Warriors vs Munster
Stormers vs Bulls
Ulster vs Connacht
Leinster vs Sharks
2022-23 URC final log:
Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix