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Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD
Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD

The inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC) semifinals this weekend will be a showdown between Irish and SA clubs, with Leinster hoping to put behind them the disappointment of their Champions Cup final defeat in May.

The Dublin-based side will host SA’s Bulls on Friday night, while the Stormers welcome Ulster on Saturday afternoon.

Favourites Leinster conceded a last-minute try to lose 24-21 to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup decider, but can go some way to banishing that disappointment with a second final in just a few weeks.

But the powerful Bulls, who are led by 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White, will present a monumental physical challenge and have the backs to poke holes in the home defence.

“They’re sort of a complete team,” Leinster coach Leo Cullen told reporters. “They have a cohesive team as well, so they don’t change the side that much, and Jake is a wily old coach. He’s been around the block.

“The half-backs are good, a strong kicking game, and they have a strong back three in terms of their kick-chase, aerially and from breaking ball as well.”

Leinster breezed into the semifinals with a 76-14 victory over Glasgow Warriors this past weekend, while the Bulls needed a late drop-goal to see off compatriots the Sharks 30-27.

The Stormers have been one of the most eye-catching sides in the competition this year with their free-flowing style, finishing second behind Leinster in the table, and are on a nine-game unbeaten run dating back to February.

But they will be without key utility back Damian Willemse after he injured his arm last week, and are up against an Ulster side seeking revenge for the 23-20 loss in Cape Town in the pool stage when they had a late try controversially disallowed.

“I’m pretty sure that there will be an element of revenge to it,” Stormers coach John Dobson said. “What I do guarantee is that we will be better at handling the way Ulster played.

“We learned a lesson in that game. They really had us caught and beat, but we are better for that.”

A Leinster victory will mean they host the June 18 final as pool stage winners, but if the Bulls pull off a surprise, the victor in the clash between the Stormers and Ulster will stage the decider.

Reuters

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