The DHL Stormers will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to five matches, while the Cell C Sharks will want to kick on from their first home win last week, and the Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls will look to bounce back from defeats in round five.

The four South African franchises are currently all in the top six on the standings following an encouraging start to the competition – with the DHL Stormers leading the charge in third place on 17 points, followed by the Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions in fourth and fifth position on 15 points and the Vodacom Bulls in sixth place with 14 points – and they will all look to remain among the tournament powerhouses as they enter round six.

The Vodacom Bulls will kick off the weekend’s action on Friday evening when they go up against Benetton in Treviso, while an action-packed Saturday schedule will feature three back-to-back matches between the Emirates Lions and Glasgow Warriors in Johannesburg, the Cell C Sharks and Ulster in Durban, and Cardiff and the DHL Stormers in Wales respectively.

The Vodacom Bulls will be desperate to bounce back from two away defeats as they enter their final tour game against the seventh-placed Benetton in Italy, but given the close margins between the teams in the competition so far it is expected to be a humdinger.

Both teams have won three of their five matches to date, with the sides currently tied on 14 log points, but the Pretoria side’s favourable points’ difference bolstered by a slightly better attack and defence nudged them one place higher on the standings.

Jake White’s men were left disappointed in the last two weeks, going down against the Glasgow Warriors and Munster after surging to a strong start in the competition with three victories in a row in South Africa, and they will be determined to change their fortunes this week.

The Vodacom Bulls team for this crucial tour match show a number of changes from last week, which include a brand-new front row of Gerhard Steenekamp, Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Klopper.

The Emirates Lions will target a vital home win against the Glasgow Warriors to regain their winning momentum after suffering a disappointing two-point defeat against Ulster last week following an impressive tour in which they won all three matches, becoming the first South African team to win three on the bounce in the Northern Hemisphere.

With the Scottish outfit lying seven places lower on the standings in 12th position after winning only two matches, the Emirates Lions will target this match to return to winning ways.

While the teams have been closely matched on attack, with the Johannesburgers scoring only six more points than their opponents, the hosts’ defence has been superior, and this combined with the warm Johannesburg conditions, is expected to boost their confidence going into the match.

The Cell C Sharks will look to build on their impressive 40-12 victory against Glasgow when they line up against Ulster in Durban, but they will be bracing themselves for a tough outing as the Irish giants are ranked second in the competition, with only one defeat to their name, and the Belfast side boasting the best attack in the competition with 190 points scored in five matches.

The fact that their defensive records are almost identical with one point separating the teams, however, will comfort the Durbanites as they go in search of their second victory in a row and their fourth win of the season.

The Cell C Sharks have boosted their side for this encounter with the promotion of no fewer than four Springbok regulars to their starting team, including national captain Siya Kolisi.

The DHL Stormers will have clearly defined objectives going into their clash against Cardiff in Wales – one of which will be to remain one of only two teams in the competition yet to suffer defeat (the other is Leinster).

The Capetonians started the tournament with a bang winning their first three matches, but they were unable to make it four in a row as they were forced to settle for a 16-16 draw against Ospreys last week.

Cardiff, however, are also fresh off back-to-back victories, and they will want to take full advantage of playing at home, but they will have to tighten up their defence in particular to achieve this feat after conceding close to double the number of points to their Cape counterparts.

The Welsh side will also enter the clash well aware of the fact that a victory could see them leap a few spots up the log, which could set the scene for an epic encounter.

Match information:

Benetton vs Vodacom Bulls
Date: Friday, 21 October
Venue: Stadio Monigo, Treviso
SA Time: 18h30
Referee: Frank Murphy
TV: SuperSport

Emirates Lions vs Glasgow Warriors
Date: Saturday, 22 October
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
SA Time: 16h05
Referee: Eoghan Cross
TV: SuperSport

Cell C Sharks vs Ulster
Date: Saturday, 22 October
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
SA Time: 18h15
Referee: Sam Grove-White
TV: SuperSport

Cardiff vs DHL Stormers
Date: Saturday, 22 October
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
SA Time: 20h35
Referee: Andrea Piardi
TV: SuperSport

Other Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixtures – Round 6 (SA times):

Friday, 21 October:
20h35: Connacht v Scarlets

Saturday, 22 October:
14h00: Zebre Parma v Edinburgh
18h15: Leinster v Munster

Sunday, 23 October:
16h00: Dragons v Ospreys