The United Rugby Championship has reached the business end of the competition in emphatic style. Whilst there were teething issues in the start of the competition, the second half saw it come alive and step up to the plate as a premier competition. I haven't felt this excited about domestic rugby in quite a well and I am truly hopeful that we will see at least one South African side in the final on the 18th of June. Before we get there though, lets take a look at the upcoming quarter finals.
Ulster v Munster
The first quarter final is an all Irish affair which sees 3rd placed Ulster playing host Munster who finished the season in 6th place. This will be a thriller of a game to kick off the weekend as both sides are in pretty good shape at the moment. On paper Munster should take the game, but a charged up Ulster at home in Belfast and coming off a strong performance against the Sharks in their previous game, will be putting everything into this one. My call is for a Munster win though with the carrying power of Damian De Allende helping the visitors get over the gain line.
Kick off: 20:35
Bulls v Sharks
The Bulls came from behind to snatch up 4th on the log and earn their right to a home quarter final. All of the 3 Sa finalists were in it right to the end and very little separates them on the log. A clash between 4th and 5th should arguably be the tightest game of the weekend and here's hoping its a great contest. I will be in attendance at Loftus and whilst I am hoping for a Sharks win, I am very aware of the Bulls attacking prowess. The Sharks boast numerous Boks in their squad so they won't be lacking any BMT for the day and a previous win at Loftus back in February may give them hope of sneaking a win in Pretoria. Whilst on paper the Sharks may look stronger, I have to admit that the Bulls are a better coached side and Jake White will be pulling out all the stops to ensure a win for his side. My prediction is a Sharks victory.
Kick off: 13:45
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
In what should be the most lopsided affair of the weekend due to the fact that its 1st v 8th and the Warriors having lost double the number of fixture compared to the log leaders, they will have their work cut out for them. Added to this that Leinster will be looking to bounce back from their loss to La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup and likely loading their URC side with loads of internationals, it looks set to be a lopsided affair. The Warriors will have to ensure they hold out an early onslaught from Leinster as their best chances will came in the latter stages of the game when their attack is slower and they can start to find some wholes. I don't believe Warriors have enough firepower in the tank and expect Leinster to win this one quite comfortably.
Kick off: 16:15
Stormers v Edinburgh
The Stormers have proven to be a formidable side at home, with a series of solid victories and a history of running rampant in the second 40. The Cape side have only lost 4 games the entire season, compared to the visitors 7. Edinburgh however arrive with some South Africans in their ranks who may just help guide their squad through preparations this week. I do however think the Stormers will have the advantage, especially in front of their home crowd, to take this one. A Stormers win would be great for SA as well as it would ensure 2 teams make it to the semi-finals.
Kick off: 19:00
How the semi-finals will shape up:
Winner of Leinster v Glasgow against the winner of Bulls v Sharks
Winner of Stormers v Edinburgh against the winner of Munster v Ulster
Whilst the SA teams are vying for their spots in the semi's, even if they win, the Stormers won't have the advantage of hosting it at home. This is due to a bit of an absurdity in the rules allowing for the top seed from the other pool, despite being lower on the overall log, the right to host. It is going to be a great weekend worth of rugby and everyone here in the Rainbow Nation will be backing the home sides all the way this weekend as they fight it out for glory in their debut seasons.