‘Unusual’ season needs boost as Leinster prepare to face Bulls


FRESH TO SEE his side score 76 points against Glasgow Warriors last Saturday, Leo Cullen admitted the one-sided 12-try win was “not ideal” to prepare for a United Rugby Championship semi-final.

Glasgow’s quarter-final loss was a hollow affair. A first home game at the RDS since February – and a knockout tie to boot – drawing less than 10,000 Leinster supporters through the gates.

The apathy toward the occasion was understandable. Many had dug deep into their pockets to find a way to get to Marseille for the Champions Cup final a week before, and it turns out Glasgow really didn’t want to be there anyway.

Leinster chiefs are likely to be more concerned to see that tickets have moved slowly again this week, with just over 10,000 sold for tonight’s semi-final with the Bulls. [KO 7.35pm, TG4/Premier Sports 2] since yesterday.

After the heights of Europe, the URC is struggling to capture the imagination. It doesn’t help that Leinster’s knockout matches have been shown on free-to-air TV, while the extended season has also left the province in competition with the Ireland football team and the GAA Championships for tramps. on the seats.

Here’s hoping those who make it to the RDS later today will be rewarded with a decent contest.

Leo Cullen spoke to the media yesterday.

Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

If last Saturday presented Leinster with an easy opportunity to shake off the initial post-Marseille blues and get back to winning another league title, the Bulls will surely put them to work for a place in next weekend’s decider, where the winners will face either the Stormer or Ulster.

“They’re pretty good at what they do, and that’s what characterizes them,” Cullen said of the Bulls. “It’s an effective team. They defend well in general. They play in the right areas of the pitch and when they break into the opposition they are patient and organized too.

It’s a good test for our guys. But that’s what we wanted. We want to stretch all the time. It’s a new challenge, isn’t it, playing a play-off? Even the way the season is, you’re in June now. It’s a bit unusual. But it’s a fascinating dynamic that excites us enormously.

While the Bulls always bring power around the set piece, they also possess plenty of offensive threat.

They travel to Dublin as the URC’s second-highest try scorers, with 70 tries to their name – unsurprisingly Leinster led the way last weekend with 12 taking them to 85 for the season. The Bulls have also thrown more offloads (228) than any other team in the competition, with former Ulster player Marcell Coetzee ahead (37) in the individual rankings.

Still, a lot will depend on how they handled a tough week. The six-day deadline for these two parts is not going well and is particularly demanding for the Pretoria-based Bulls.

After overtaking the Sharks in dramatic fashion just before Leinster kicked off against Glasgow last Saturday, the Bulls left South Africa for Dublin via a handful of different flights on Sunday and Monday, with Leinster playing host accommodating in helping with workout equipment. . They come into this game having won nine of their last 10 league outings, but if the Bulls are to pull off an upset tonight, they won’t be thanking the league for their part in the preparations.


Chris Smith kicked the game-winning drop goal for the Bulls last weekend.

Credit: Steve Haag/INPHO

Leinster won’t have much sympathy for their visitors – those are the rewards you get for being top of the table, after all. The Bulls have been to Dublin before this season, losing 31-3 at the Aviva Stadium on the opening weekend, but Cullen believes they will be better equipped to meet the challenge this time around.

“The group they have put together has very, very experienced players, like Bismarck du Plessis on the bench, (Marcel) Coetzee, Morne Steyn on the bench as well.


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“So these very, very experienced players have been around the block and then there’s quite a few young players that they’ve brought in this season. So for these young guys, some of them maybe haven’t- been huge in South Africa, so for them the experience of coming here to the north a couple of times, getting used to playing outside… You play in Pretoria, which is warmer, there’s altitude, so there’s the different challenge of the conditions here and everything else.

“Over time, you become more familiar. Even talking to some of our youngest and feedback from their experience in South Africa, it just becomes less daunting the next time you do it. It’s really like anything, isn’t it?

As I said before, I grew up watching these teams. You have them on such a pedestal, the Bulls, you think they were a real dominating force against the best in Australia and New Zealand as well. They were a properly dominant strength team.

“Were” being the key word. The Bulls’ last Super Rugby title was in 2010, when Cullen was still lifting trophies as a Leinster player. [they also won the South Africa-only Super Rugby Unlocked in 2020].

Now playing under the URC umbrella, Jake White’s side are hoping to once again become a force. Tonight they can test themselves against a Leinster side chasing a fifth straight league title, who are desperate to end the season with silverware that has been sorely lacking in Europe.

“It’s important that we have that nervous energy,” Cullen adds.

“It’s not enough to expect it to go into overdrive for us, we’re going to have to make it happen. We’re going to have to work hard and we’re going to have to fight and give up for whatever we come out with.

LEINSTER: Jimmy O’Brien; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose; Robbie Henshaw, Rory O’Loughlin; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Joe McCarthy, James Ryan (captain); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Substitutes: Seán Cronin, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Luke McGrath, Johnny Sexton, Ciarán Frawley.

BULLS: Canan Moodie; David Kriel, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Madosh Tambwe; Chris Smith, Zak Burger; Gerhard Steenekamp, ​​Johan Grobbelaar, Mornay Smith; Walt Steenkamp, ​​Ruan Nortje; Marcell Coetzee, Arno Botha, Elrigh Louw.

Substitutes: Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima, Robert Hunt, Janko Swanepoel, WJ Steenkamp; Embrose Paper, Morne Steyn, Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Arbitrator: Andrea Piardi (FIR)

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