The Vodacom URC enters Round 13 on Friday where the teams will have yet another round of playoffs in the back of their minds as there are only six rounds of pool matches remaining in the competition including this week’s fixtures.

The Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers will kick off the action on Friday night with the Pretoria side going up against the Scarlets in Llanelli and the Capetonians taking on Ulster in Belfast.

The other two domestic franchises will take the field on Saturday night, with Edinburgh hosting the Cell C Sharks in Scotland and Connacht meeting the Emirates Lions in Galway.

The Vodacom Bulls, who are currently in third place on the log behind Leinster and the DHL Stormers with 39 points, will look to kick on from their victory against the Dragons away in their last outing, and the fact that the Scarlets have won only three of their 12 matches this season will boost their confidence.

The visitors, however, will be wary of the fact that two of the home side’s three victories were in Llanelli, while they also registered a draw on their home patch in the opening match of the competition. Adding to this the Scarlets come off a morale-boosting away win in their last Vodacom URC outing against Cardiff.

The Vodacom Bulls have been more effective on attack and defence, and they will have the extra motivation of staying ahead of Ulster and Glasgow on the standings, who have the luxury of a game in hand.

The DHL Stormers will face a tough test against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium where a victory would be important to allow them some breathing space in the top two on the log as the tournament nears the knock-out stages. The Cape side trail log-leaders Leinster by 11 points, while they hold a narrow six-point lead over the Vodacom Bulls.

The visitors have been marginally better on attack, scoring nine more points, but they will look to take advantage of their strong defence, which has placed them in the top three defensive sides.

Interestingly, Ulster have lost three of their last four league matches and suffered defeats in their last two matches against the DHL Stormers, however, the Capetonians have only won one of their last four away games.

The ninth-placed Cell C Sharks will have their sights on displacing Edinburgh in the top eight on the table at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday to work their way into a favourable position for a place in the top eight in the next few weeks, especially with the team trailing the Scottish side by only one log point despite having two matches in hand.

Edinburgh, who beat the Cell C Sharks in Durban when these sides met for the first time last season, have scored 37 more points in their 12 matches this season, but the Durbanites have won more match, which they will draw confidence from.

They will also be desperate to bounce back from their last defeat against Connacht in the Vodacom URC and Harlequins in the Heineken Champions Cup in two of their last three matches.

The Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks in action earlier this season.

The Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks in action earlier this season.

The Emirates Lions will enter their match against Connacht at The Sportsground with confidence after their encouraging 30-25 away win against the Dragons in the EPCR Challenge Cup last week, which cemented their place in the playoffs.

They will also be mindful of the fact that they are well within range for a Vodacom URC playoff spot if they deliver the desired results in the next few weeks, especially given that they are only six points below Edinburgh on the log.

Adding to this, they are only one behind Connacht, who have played an extra match, with the sides currently level on five wins apiece.

The Emirates Lions will expect a tough challenge with Connacht having won three of their last four matches in Galway, while the Gauteng side are on a three-match losing streak in the competition. But the visitors will draw inspiration from the fact that they have won more matches away from home this season.

Meanwhile, the postponed first round SA derby between the Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers has been pushed out from Friday, 3 February, to Saturday, 4 February at 14h00 in Durban.

In addition to this change, the sixth round fixtures that were postponed in October will take place on Saturday, 25 February, with the Cell C Sharks hosting Ulster in Durban, while the Emirates Lions will welcome Glasgow Warriors to Johannesburg.

Match information:

Scarlets v Vodacom Bulls
Date: Friday, 27 January
Venue: Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli
SA Time: 21h35
Referee: Andrew Brace
TV: SuperSport

Ulster v DHL Stormers
Date: Friday, 27 January
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
SA Time: 21h35
Referee: Mike Adamson
TV: SuperSport

Edinburgh v Cell C Sharks
Date: Saturday, 28 January
Venue: DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh
SA Time: 19h15
Referee: James Doleman
TV: SuperSport

Connacht v Emirates Lions
Date: Saturday, 28 January
Venue: The Sportsground, Galway
SA Time: 21h35
Referee: Paul Williams
TV: SuperSport

Other Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixtures – Round 13 (SA times):

Saturday, 28 January:
16h30: Benetton v Munster
17h00: Dragons v Glasgow Warriors
19h05: Leinster v Cardiff Rugby

Sunday, 29 January:
17h00: Zebre Parma v Ospreys