United Rugby Championship

'I Am Not A Betting Man, But If I Was, I'd Mark Them Down' - Bob Skinstad

'I Am Not A Betting Man, But If I Was, I'd Mark Them Down' - Bob Skinstad

Former Springboks rugby captain Bob Skinstad picks who he believes will win the 2023-2024 BKT United Rugby Championship.

May 31, 2024 by Philip Bendon
'I Am Not A Betting Man, But If I Was, I'd Mark Them Down' - Bob Skinstad

As if by the click of a finger, the 2023-2024 BKT United Rugby Championship is entering its final round following 17 action-packed weekends of high-octane rugby action.

Heading into Round 18, it remains all to play for across the leaderboard, with something on the line for every team.

While the top four sides all have secured a home quarterfinal, any one of the sides can mathematically still finish at the top of the leader board, and with it, secure a full home run through the playoffs.

Behind this group, positions 5-11 all can secure a place in the knockout rounds, depending on how results play out. Given the 13th-place Hollywoodbets Sharks victory over Gloucester Rugby in the EPCR Challenge Cup, only seven places remain up for grabs for next season’s Investec Champions Cup.

With so much on the line heading into this weekend’s action, former Springboks captain Bob Skinstad discussed the final rounds of this year’s competition earlier this week at a media round table event.

“Obviously, we're heading into Round 18 of the URC, which I think has been outstanding again," he said. “We've got matches coming up that are going to determine some of the places people end up, particularly the final two spots, and whether they make it through to the quarterfinals.

“A number of people are trying to get into those spots at the moment.

“I think there are a few sure things already, and as we see it, we've got Munster at the top.

“I think if you guys have an idea, and I can share it with you guys at the end, I've written down some of the things I think might happen in that final round.

“But, the quality of rugby has been great; we're getting to that time of year where in the UK, the weather plays ball a little bit more.

“We've already seen some incredible ball in hand and tried scoring feats and some fantastic rugby from all of these teams, and we're looking forward to finishing off the season.”

Focusing on the BKT URC’s development as a competition, Skinstad was emphatic in his support of the competition and what it means to the competing nations.

“I love the URC; I love what the URC stands for," he added. “I think it's a challenger brand in the rugby leagues around the world.

“You can't be a challenger brand forever, and I think what you've got to do is you've got to set yourself a path and a rail to become a brand, which becomes an established brand everybody knows and loves, and I think URC is doing that in very, very quick and in short order. So, I think that's very positive.”

Dissecting the closely packed table, Skinstad shared his views on how the final round might play out.

“I think we've got a very representative top 8 at the moment as it stands," Skinstad said. "I think the teams that are sitting in pole position - Munster Bulls, Leinster and Glasgow - are in the top 4 at the moment, and that's not going to change in terms of who's there.

“It just might change in terms of the rankings. I think that's very representative of the kind of rugby that those four teams have played, particularly Glasgow.

“I think they have played better rugby than they thought; they've had a loss away from home that they didn't want to give away. I caught up with Franco (Smith Glasgow’s head coach) about that, and he's really disappointed that he didn't have a guaranteed home for the semifinal going into this because he knows how, getting to the sharp end of the season, you can quickly drop out.

“But, I think you know, I suppose if you look onto the game they've got for this next round, I mean, it's people they know super well and play against all the time, and I mean, I think they would probably be confident that they can get a full five points against Zebre.

“So they'll be sitting pretty, and then the rest of the table, I think, is well-represented. You know, the next four after that are the Stormers, Ulster, Edinburgh and Benetton.

“I think Benetton actually has dropped away a little bit in the second half of the season. They'll be disappointed with that because they were seriously hard to beat at home, and they have traveled well this year. They scored some great tries, they played some fantastic rugby, and I think we saw a translation of their talent from the domestic team into the Italian national team, and that's got to be good for competitive rugby.”

Finishing off his point, the former backrow laid out who he believed was his favorite for the competition, and it might surprise many that he didn’t pick a South African side.

“I mean, you know, Munster has always been one of the teams that we've known about in South Africa because of their victories against the All Blacks, victories in European rugby, victories you domestically, and some of the great players that have come over and played for them and also some of the great players that have come out of the area.

“So, I think Munster adds a lot to this tournament, and  I think they add a lot to European club rugby in general.

“I think we, as South Africans, like people that are not easy to beat because we're not out there to go and play rugby against people that aren't necessarily taking us on.

“Munster never takes a backward step, and I think it's fantastic.

“So their reputation precedes them, and their performances have exceeded that reputation a number of times over the years, and particularly this season, they've done exceptionally well. So, we see them in a very good light and with great respect, and we look forward to big games against them.

“I've marked them down, and I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I marked them down as ending the top of the table, you know, and they had a fantastic win last year.

“As defending champions, why would they not be out and out favorites to go on and win it?

“Well, the main reason is because a lot of people, I think, maybe play down the Munster victories of old and what they've done this season.

“So I think they'll like that; they don't mind being underdogs.

“They've probably been best at being underdogs and knocking over, you know, famous teams when they least expect it.

“It's a fantastic opportunity for them to hold their line, hold their position and then, you know, three good performances away from competing in a final.”

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