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Report card: The 4 South African URC teams ranked and rated

By Rugby365
Willie le Roux in Dublin two weeks ago with the Bulls of Vodacom Bulls (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Now that all is set and done, with Glasgow Warriors crowned champions, Angus Opperman reviews the seasons of the four South African franchises.

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Sharks
Rating: 2/10
Played: 18, won: four, lost 14
Position: 14th

A team stacked with internationals and so much promise failed to progress to the URC knockouts for the second consecutive year.

This time around it was much worse as they had a nightmare season with only recording four wins in the URC and failing to record a single win against their South African counterparts.

They had the silver lining of winning the Challenge Cup – which gave them automatic qualification into the Champions Cup next season.

However, they would want to be a title contender in the 2024/25 season.

United Rugby Championship

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Munster
18
13
4
1
68
2
Bulls
18
13
5
0
66
3
Leinster
18
13
5
0
65
4
Glasgow
18
13
5
0
65
5
Stormers
18
12
6
0
59
6
Ulster
18
11
7
0
54
7
Benetton
18
11
6
1
54
8
Ospreys
18
10
8
0
50
9
Lions
18
9
9
0
50
10
Edinburgh
18
11
7
0
49
11
Connacht
18
9
9
0
45
12
Cardiff Rugby
18
4
13
1
32
13
Scarlets
18
5
13
0
27
14
Sharks
18
4
14
0
25
15
Gwent Dragons
18
3
15
0
16
16
Zebre
18
1
16
1
15

Lions
Rating: 6/10
Played: 18, won: nine, lost: nine
Position: Ninth

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Another season of ‘what could have been’ for the Johannesburg franchise.

Since the inception of the URC, the Lions came within an arm’s reach of making the quarterfinal stage.

This season it was again close.

Ospreys decided their fate when they pipped Cardiff after the Lions lost a must-win final match against the Stormers away from home.

The Lions will also lament the games they squandered – as six of their nine losses were by seven points or less.

Their inability to close out games they should’ve won came back to bite them and is something they should seriously address ahead of next season.

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Stormers
Rating: 7.5/10
Played: 18, won: 12, lost: six
Position: Fifth

A disappointing season for the Cape Town-based team after competing in back-to-back home Finals – winning the first one one in 2022.

There was a lot of excitement about the Stormers’ season prospects, but a poor start away from home on their four-match tour saw them lose all their matches.

More agonisingly, three of those four games were by seven points or less.

They also had a shock home loss to the Ospreys that effectively cost them a top-four finish.

Given their strong home record, one could wonder how far they might have gone had they made a top-four finish and had a home quarterfinal.

They lost their away quarterfinal to eventual champions Glasgow Warriors and weren’t always firing at their best throughout the season which can be a cause for concern, but also an opportunity to address and fix ahead of next season.

Bulls
Rating: 9/10
Played: 18, won: 13, lost: five
Position: Second

In what was in many ways a watershed season for the Bulls – where they started to look like the real deal – they will be disappointed to lose a home URC Final to the Glasgow Warriors – having also fallen short away from home to the Stormers in 2022.

The Bulls seemed to grow in leaps and bounds as the season progressed.

Their only home blemish came against Munster after a red card to flyhalf Johan Goosen.

The Bulls seemed well on track to a first title in the Northern Hemisphere.

They also lost only once against fellow South African opposition, the Stormers, but got their revenge over their arch-rivals at home.

That ended the Cape side’s winning streak over fellow South African teams – a run that started in 2022.

They also took the SA Shield away from the Stormers.

They would take many positives from this season to use in the next one to come back stronger and wiser and hopefully not stumble at the final hurdle again.

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Comments

4 Comments
C
Craig 19 days ago

The Lions really need to move from Ellis Park then they would have bigger crowds which would really help.

H
Henrik 19 days ago

I think we may all agree, that each and every SA franchise has underachieved in the 23/24 season …. each in it’s own way …..

J
Jon 19 days ago

I was like, hold on wheres the 5th teams revie.. ewww oh dang, forgot that one.

All fairly generous ratings.

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finn 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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