Just like that, two regular seasons of the United Rugby Championship are under the belt. There are still a number of logistical things that can be improved on to make the tournament an even better spectacle, but that is for another article. As things stand, for the second year running, three South African sides have made the play-off's, one can hardly complain about that.
The Stormers, having won the 2022 edition in their first year, face a tougher task repeating that feat. Whilst a home final is not impossible, should Leinster and Ulster fall away beforehand, it doesn't seem likely. That being said, the Stormers have to be favored to mount South Africa's biggest challenge for the title. They are the most consistent side and are of proven quality.
The Stormers will host the Blue Bulls down in Cape Town in a repeat of last years final. The Cape based side have had their Pretoria counterparts number in recent times and will fancy their chances in this one. The Stormers will also see the return of Deon Fourie to the fold, a huge cog that has been missing from their machine.
The Bulls on the other hand seem to have shook off their mid-season wobble and have put together some strong performances. In the last two weeks they put 78 points of Zebre and 62 over Leinster. Johan Goosen is back pulling the strings and Arendse and Moodie seem to know their way to the try line, blindfolded. You can't count them out of this contest, especially keeping in mind they knocked Leinster out in Leinster during last years semi-final.
The Sharks are the 3rd South African side to reach the quarters. It is frustrating to see a side with so much talent at its disposal, struggle for consistency and that killer instinct. The Sharks have put out some massive statement performances but then seemingly follow them up with a less than ideal game the next. The Durban based side were already missing Springboks Eben Etzebeth and Jaden Hendrikse and will likely be without the services of Siya Kolisi and Curwin Bosch going forward, both went down injured against Munster.
The Sharks have a massive task coming up as they head off to face Leinster at home. The Sharks surrendered a 19 point lead against Munster which saw them end 8th overall. Seeing that Leinster are first on the log by quite some distance, you can see a mismatch coming in this one. The Sharks may take hope from the Bulls 2022 defeat of Leinster but the chances aren't good for the Springbok laden side. Leinster will also add all their international stars at this stage, players who haven't lost for club or country in a year.
Elsewhere Ulster will host Connacht in an all Irish affair, whilst the Glasgow Warriors will take on Munster. The URC action will resume on 05 and 06 May.