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URC, Semifinals - Teams and Predictions

PREVIEW: Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has labelled himself a realist when describing his team’s chances against Irish giants Leinster in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship semifinal.

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The showdown will be happening at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, but the Bulls will still be entering that match as overwhelming underdogs.

Leinster’s matchday squad is crammed with internationals. Many of those players will be running out for Ireland on that same field against the Springboks in a few weeks’ time.

On the other hand, the Bulls suffered some huge injury blows over the last couple of weeks with Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the sidelines.

Marcell Coetzee hinted that he could make a surprise comeback for the semifinal. However, he took himself out of the equation when he felt that he would do his team a disservice if he wasn’t 100 percent ready.

“He doesn’t want to be a yard slow for his team,” said White, when asked about Coetzee’s absence.

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The good news for the Bulls is that Springbok flank Marco van Staden is back in the starting line-up, but it seems the odds are still stacked against the home side.

“We would have been underdogs even if we had Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi,” White explained.

“I’m a realist. You guys [media] are underplaying how good Leinster are.

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“Cian Healy has got more Test caps and more games for Leinster than I think our whole bench has got [URC caps] together.

“That’s the calibre of guys they have.

“I read in the paper that they said they are underdogs. If I spent 10 years at a club and I have 25 internationals and tell you that we are underdogs, you would be panicking.”

When asked if the situation has gotten worse with those key players out, White said: “I wouldn’t use the word ‘worse’. It just would have been better if we had those experienced players there.”

He added: “But that’s the beauty of sport. No one thought Benetton could beat us last week and they nearly did.

“One thing I am going to say is that we are going to have a go. We are not going to die wondering.

“Who knows, maybe Devon [Williams] scores the winning try tomorrow [Saturday] and ends up becoming a household name in Pretoria. That’s how quickly sport changes.

“I’m comfortable. That is the best we’ve got.

“We’ve prepared as best we can.

“I’m not naive or unrealistic when I say it’s probably the biggest game we had in a long time, especially because they are coming here in two weeks to play a Test match.

“It’s a little like playing the Crusaders and then next week the All Blacks. This group has never experienced that.”

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Meanwhile, Saturday’s encounter has put Leinster in an unfamiliar position as they’ve rarely played play-off games away from home over the years.

However, prop Cian Healy believes that stepping away from that comfort zone could help his team end their trophy drought.

“We haven’t been successful in the last couple of years and maybe it’s something that’s needed,” said Healy.

“Spending a week on the road together and doing everything together, I think there is going to be some positives from it.”

The 36-year-old said he is relishing the physical battle against the Bulls.

“I think as a forward it is one of the more exciting games because it will probably be one of the most physical games we will be involved in, ” he said.

“In my position, it just screams a bit of joy to me.

“It is something you can just get stuck into and test your physical levels against a team that is very good in that area.”

Saturday’s second semifinal will see Munster at home against Glasgow Warriors.

The reigning champions have the easier route to success this year and so far, they’ve handled it well, except for the first half of their last league game against Ulster when for a while it looked like they might have blown their chance of finishing top of the log.

However, they got through it and showed their pedigree with a resounding second-half turnaround before they executed a perfect finals rugby game plan to knock the Ospreys out last weekend.

Glasgow will find the whole environment very different, and quite intimidating, in comparison to when they had their crowd behind them against the Stormers in the quarterfinals.

“Munster are one of the most consistent teams in the league, and time and time again they have shown that they know what it takes to win on the biggest stage,” said Glasgow head coach Franco Smith.

“They are a well-drilled side who possess a real physical edge, that we know will compete for everything when given the chance.

“They also possess one of the strongest home records in the competition that they will be looking to defend tomorrow [Saturday] night, and we know we will have to be at our best to meet their challenge.”

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree has a marked respect for the South African-born Smith, who has transformed Glasgow since his arrival.

The Scottish side has one of the best mauls in the business, while also boasting the tournament’s top try-scorer as well.

“They’ve got the full package,” says Rowntree.

“They can play, they’re dangerous on the edge of the field, they kick a lot less than most teams.

“They have a dangerous breakdown, and they come here with – reading between the lines – quite a gnarly attitude, similar to us on the road last year.

“We spoke about that mindset this week. That’s what we’re waiting for.”

See below for Saturday’s teams and predictions!

URC Play-off probabilty

Saturday, June 15:

Bulls v Leinster
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT; 15.00 IRE & UK time)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Leinster by seven points.

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 David Kriel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Cornel Smit.

Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Jamie Osborne.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland) and Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

Munster v Glasgow Warriors
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 18.00; 17.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Munster by four points.

Teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Shane Daly, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 John Ryan, 18 Oli Jager, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Seán O’Brien, 23 Alex Kendellen.

Glasgow: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Kyle Steyn (captain), 10 Tom Jordan, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Johnny Matthews, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Murphy Walker, 19 Max Williamson, 20 Euan Ferrie, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Jamie Dobie, 23 Ross Thompson.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy) and Federico Vedovelli (Italy)
TMO: Matteo Lipirini (Italy)

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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