Bulls buoyed by Van Staden's return

But Leinster have assembled the cavalry for their URC semi

14 June 2024 - 22:09
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The Bulls will have Marco van Staden back for their URC semi against Leinster.
The Bulls will have Marco van Staden back for their URC semi against Leinster.
Image: Steve Haag Sports (Gallo Images)

The Bulls will be buoyed by the return of Springbok flank Marco van Staden ahead of their United Rugby Championship semifinal against Leinster at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Van Staden, as a precaution, sat out in last week's nervy win over Benetton Treviso but he is ready to crank it up in the continued absence of Marcell Coetzee who is still on the mend.

The Bulls will be equally buoyed by the fact that they have not lost a home semifinal in more than a decade. They have however, never faced a team like Leinster in a play-off match at Loftus and the task ahead of them becomes apparent at a glance of the visitors' team sheet.

Leinster this time assembled as much of the cavalry as they could muster after they were downed at Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld on their last visit to the highveld.

Their much weakened team got hammered at Loftus but they will take comfort from the fact they outplayed the Bulls when they were closer to full strength in Dublin earlier this season.

Sharper focus

A lot has happened since. Leinster were still hoping to lay their hands on the Champions Cup trophy when they last played but their loyalties are no longer divided.

With the personnel they have assembled they can more closely play the relentless possession, continuity based game with which they routinely overwhelm the opposition.

They will however have to be accurate in their execution if they are going to keep the Bulls quiet.

The Bulls have become an attacking force and they are likely to try to play the game at a ferocious tempo.

Some of the hosts' attacking threat has been blunted by the absence of the dynamo Kurt-Lee Arendse and the ever improving Canan Moodie. Both suffered fractures in recent weeks and the Bulls last week showed a few cracks once they were both missing.

The Bulls' attacking stats however are compelling. They have averaged a competition high 4.72 tries per game and though they frequently concede points, their attack possesses so much variety they play with the unshakeable belief they will score more.

When they get a sniff of the try line the Bulls are unlikely to be denied as evidenced in the fact that they are the team most likely to score once they make an entry into the opposition's 22.

Less ruthless

Leinster on the other hand is the team most likely to get into the opposition's 22, though not with the same killer instinct once there.

The visitors boast an experienced Test front row in Tadgh Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter but elsewhere too in their pack they are littered with performers at the highest level.

Despite the visitors' decorated front row the Bulls will want to make the scrum a key battleground. They have dug up turf putting the opposition scrum in the retreat this season and well timed scrum penalties may hand them a significant advantage.

Behind the scrum the battle between scrumhalves Embrose Papier and Jameson Gibson-Park will be keenly observed. Papier has been resurgent this season, while Gibson-Park very rarely puts a foot wrong.

Leinster will be thankful to have the vastly experienced Garry Ringrose reunited in midfield with long-time midfield partner Robbie Henshaw. The battle in midfield is unlikely to see the sidestep deployed and it will perhaps be the metres gained there as the visitors target Johan Goosen that could help cut them a path to the final.


Bulls — Willie le Roux; Sergeal Petersen, David Kriel, Harold Vorster, Devon Williams; Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier; Cameron Hanekom, Elrigh Louw, Marco Van Staden; Ruan Nortje captain), Ruan Vermaak; Wilco Louw, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp. Substitutes: Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Keagan Johannes, Chris Smith, Cornel Smit

Leinster — Jimmy O’Brien; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Ryan Baird; James Ryan (captain), Joe McCarthy; Tadgh Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter. Substitutes: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Jamie Osborne.

Kickoff: 4pm

Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)

AR 1: Mike Adamson (SRU). AR 2: Adam Jones (WRU)

TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

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