Mixed bag for SA teams on the road in the URC

It was the Lions that saved the weekend for SA teams as they looked to be on course for a defeat against Scarlets in Llanelli.

It was a mixed bag for South African teams on the road in the United Rugby Championship (URC) over the weekend as the Bulls and Lions emerged with impressive wins, while the Sharks and Stormers fell to disappointing defeats.

It was the Lions that saved the weekend for SA teams as they looked to be on course for a defeat against Scarlets in Llanelli, trailing by nine points with seven minutes left in the match, only for a stunning late show to see them steal a 24-23 win.

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It was the Lions first win of the URC season, having lost their opening three games by two points against the Stormers, by one point against Edinburgh and by five points against Benetton, with them this time turning those results around for a tight win of their own.

In the match Scarlets took a 10-7 lead into the halftime break and although the Lions briefly took a 14-13 lead early in the second half, they were largely second best as the hosts took a 23-14 lead into the final 10 minutes.

But a penalty from the boot of flyhalf Sanele Nohamba and a charge down by right wing Richard Kriel allowed outside centre Henco van Wyk in for the winning converted score to steal the win at the death.

The Lions now move on to their final tour match against Ulster in Belfast on Friday night with confidence before heading back home.

Hard work

The Bulls were made to work hard but in the end secured their second URC win on the road with an 18-12 win over Cardiff in Wales.

The Bulls took an early 12-0 lead after 13 minutes thanks to tries by scrumhalf Embrose Papier and wing Sebastian de Klerk, with one converted by flyhalf Chris Smith, but by halftime that lead had been cut to 12-7.

A Smith penalty early in the second half moved the Bulls further ahead, only for a converted try from the hosts in the 52nd minute to make it 15-12, before Smith struck the final points of the match in the 61st minute.

The Bulls now have one last away game, against Edinburgh in Scotland, and should they emerge with another win they will head back to SA after a successful tour of Europe.

For the Stormers and Sharks their poor URC tours continued as they went down to Italian opposition, with the Stormers losing 20-17 to Benetton and the Sharks being upset 12-10 by Zebre.

The Stormers will be disappointed to have lost a game they could have won in Treviso, with them outscoring Benetton three tries to two while they messed up a number of chances, missed two conversions and turned down an easy three points to pull level with 10 minutes left in the match.

They now head into a tough clash against URC defending champs Munster in Limerick on Saturday, before concluding their tour the following week Friday against Cardiff in Wales.

Team in turmoil

For the Sharks, they are a team in turmoil as Zebre snapped a record 28 match losing streak to stun them for a famous win in Parma.

Although the Sharks have been in dreadful form this season and went into the game off the back of three straight defeats, they never would have imagined that they would lose against a team that last won in the competition back in April 2022.

Zebre had gone through the entire previous URC season winless and shipped eight tries in a 54-29 defeat to the Bulls a week before, but showed tremendous character to upset the Sharks, who produced arguably their worst ever performance in the competition.

The Sharks now head back to SA with zero wins from four games, rooted firmly to the bottom of the URC table and face a lot of introspection as they try work out how to turn a disastrous start to their season around.