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State of the URC: SA rivals reload for red-hot derbies

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The DHL Stormers and Sharks renew hostilities while the Vodacom Bulls and Lions clash in another all-South African showdown when the Vodacom URC resumes this week.

The Bulls claimed bragging rights in the Jukskei Derby while logging an invaluable 30-28 win at Loftus Versfeld to climb up the standings before a two-week pause in the competition.

The victory for the Pretoria outfit saw them shift from sixth place on the URC log to fourth after nine rounds and retain their unbeaten record at home this season, while the Lions are in 10th place.

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In a tense round 9 battle between the Stormers and Sharks at Cape Town Stadium, a penalty from Manie Libbok was all that separated the coastal rivals as the hosts clawed out a 16-15 triumph.

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The next round of matches will see the Bulls travel south on the N1 to take on the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday, before the Sharks and Stormers, in 16th and seventh places on the table respectively, lock horns in a blockbuster derby at Kings Park.

The action should catch on even more in the coming weeks, for the log at the halfway mark points to the probability of a proper bun fight at the sharp end of the league season, both for playoff spots and home advantage.

Leaders Leinster are not as dominant as in seasons past, and the Irish giants are only two points ahead of the surprise package so far, second-placed Benetton.

The third-placed Glasgow Warriors and the Bulls are within four points of Leinster, and Ulster, Edinburgh, the Stormers and the Ospreys are all within two wins of pole position. The Lions, Connacht and defending champions Munster all fall outside of the top eight currently, but are within 10 points of the frontrunners, and just one point off Champions Cup and playoff qualification.

Round 10 fixtures:

Friday, 16 February
Zebre v Edinburgh (9:35pm)
Scarlets v Munster (9:35pm)

Saturday, 17 February
Lions v Bulls (3pm)
Leinster v Benetton (5pm)
Sharks v Stormers (5pm)
Cardiff v Connacht (7:15pm)
Glasgow v Dragons (9:35pm)

Sunday, 18 February
Ospreys v Ulster (5pm)

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

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