Leinster ceded their long time dominance of the Vodacom URC log race when they lost to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town two weeks ago, and currently sit four points, meaning a win, behind the new leaders, Glasgow Warriors.

But the potential jeopardy for Leinster goes deeper than that - both their arch Irish rivals Munster and the Vodacom Bulls are within a few points of them and poised to take advantage of any slip up.

Leinster host the Ospreys in round 16 as the Vodacom URC returns this weekend, and the Ospreys showed when they beat the DHL Stormers in Cape Town what they are capable of. If you can win at the DHL Stadium, you can probably win anywhere, and for Leinster there’s the small matter of having a Champions Cup final to prepare for in a couple of weeks.

They also have a tough derby against Ulster, who beat them in the first round fixture over the festive season, in their near feature. In fact, that game happens a week before the Champions Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Knowing Leinster, that probably means they will go in under-strength for their derby, which could make them vulnerable.

All of which means that all the other three teams inhabiting top four positions currently are in the race for top spot, with the log battle continuing to play out like it was scripted by someone with an appetite for high drama and suspense.

It would be tempting to suggest that the plum fixture and most important one this coming weekend is the early Saturday afternoon shoot-out in Pretoria between the Vodacom Bulls and the Warriors. It pits the first placed team against the fourth.

The visitors have to win to stay ahead of Leinster and Munster in the race for top spot on the final log, the Vodacom Bulls have to win to make their coveted top four finish safer. And to keep in the race for a top spot, which is still entirely possible.

The bottom line is that there is a lot on the line for the Vodacom Bulls, not least because defeat will leave them vulnerable to the chasing Stormers in the race for four spot. Or for that matter a clutch of other teams - the DHL Stormers are six behind the men from Pretoria, but Connacht, Ulster and Benetton are tied together just one point further back.

Spit the dummy now and the Vodacom Bulls, who finish off their campaign with a potentially tricky trip to Durban to play the resurgent Hollywoodbets Sharks, could find themselves not in the top four, but sixth or seventh.

But many of the contending teams face each other in these closing stages and will therefore cancel each other out. Which is why it would be factually inaccurate to say Loftus is where it’s all happening. It is happening everywhere. It is intense everywhere. There isn’t a game in the eight in this round where it is not intense for at least one of the teams.

Given Benetton’s position, and potential threat to the top four, their game in Durban against the Hollywoodbets Sharks is just as important as the one in Pretoria. And Connacht’s visit to Munster for an Irish derby might just be the most intense match up of all. Munster returned from a two game tour of South Africa with full points and are surging, currently third just behind Leinster.

But Connacht are fighting for a second successive appearance in the Vodacom URC playoff phase, and the place in next season’s Champions Cup that goes with it. They tend to raise their game in derbies and Munster will know how tough they are as opponents.

Connacht face the DHL Stormers the following week in Galway, and that will add to the intensity with which the Cape side approaches Friday night’s game in Newport against the Dragons. John Dobson’s men will be strong favourites, but they haven’t been great in Wales recently. A defeat now would seriously threaten their Champions Cup status, apart from ending any hope of a top four finish, so the pressure on them is red hot.

The DHL Stormers play on Friday night, as do Edinburgh, who are just outside the top eight currently, in ninth. Their South African coach Sean Everitt will be expecting full points against Zebre to launch them back into the top eight and a final push over the last two games.

Ulster are among the clutch of teams on the same number of points ranked from sixth through to eighth, so can’t afford to slip away against Scarlets on Saturday afternoon, while the Emirates Lions are in their last chance saloon in their quest for a top eight spot as they host Cardiff. The Lions will be favourites, but the Ospreys showed on their recent tour that Welsh teams can no longer be trifled with, even on South African soil.

Vodacom United Rugby Championship Round 16 fixtures

Friday, 10 May:
20h35: Edinburgh v Zebre (Edinburgh)
20h35: Dragons v DHL Stormers (Newport)

Saturday, 11 May:
14h00: Vodacom Bulls v Glasgow Warriors (Pretoria)
16h05: Hollywoodbets Sharks v Benetton (Durban)
16h05: Scarlets v Ulster (Llanelli)
18h15: Munster v Connacht (Limerick)
18h15: Emirates Lions v Cardiff (Johannesburg)
20h35: Leinster v Ospreys (Dublin)