URC SEMIS: Loftus an appetiser for what comes three weeks later

rugby09 June 2024 07:00
By:Gavin Rich
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The Vodacom Bulls fans © Gallo Images

The Vodacom Bulls are far from being a shadow Springbok team in the way that Leinster are a shadow of the Ireland international team, but the results of the quarterfinal round of Vodacom United Rugby Championship have nonetheless set up a mouth-watering appetiser for what is to come in July.

The Boks and Ireland, the top two ranked teams in the world, will clash in a two test series, kicking off with the first test at Loftus on 6 July. The Leinster based Ireland players who will be part of the Ireland tour group will therefore get what could for them be a useful chance to get to feel what it is like to play at Loftus three weeks before the series starts.

Not that Leinster will be thinking of their Ireland commitments. The Irish province showed their determination to make up for their narrow defeat in the Investec Champions Cup final against Toulouse and to break what has now stretched to a three year trophy drought for them by thumping arch-rivals Ulster in Dublin in the third quarterfinal to be played at the weekend.

The Bulls were left as the last South African team in the competition when the Stormers, who conspired against themselves as much as anything else, slumped to a frustrating and agonising defeat to the Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun. The Stormers were trailing by three points with six minutes to go and should have been awarded a scrum penalty that would have put them on the attack.

However, quite inexplicably, and to the consternation of Stormers coach John Dobson, the call went the other way, and instead of the Stormers pressing for the win Glasgow were able to launch a driving maul from which Henco Venter dotted down to put the game out of reach of the Stormers.

“I don’t want to be seen to be making excuses but Frans Malherbe (Springbok World Cup winning prop) was standing next to me at the time and he said he’d never seen a penalty like that,” said Dobson.

But with flyhalf Manie Libbok missing 10 points from the tee, and the Stormers having a few other soft moments that ruined their momentum, Dobson was the first to admit that his team conspired against themselves.

The Bulls didn’t have a great day either even though they advanced past Edinburgh at Loftus, something they were heavily favoured to do. The game was still in the balance late on and Benetton had plenty of possession and exposed some glaring vulnerabilities in the Bulls defensive system. They are going to have to be better against Leinster if we are not going to see an all Ireland final.

Glasgow Warriors broke a playoff drought for them in their win over the Stormers and played with impressive intensity but will start as underdogs in the second semifinal, with Munster hosting them at Thomond Park in Limerick.

Vodacom United Rugby Championship semifinalsURC - Saturday, June 15

Semi-Final 2: Vodacom Bulls v Leinster

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

KO: 16:00 SA (15:00 IRE & UK)

Live on SuperSport, RTÉ, Premier Sports,

Semi-Final 1: Munster v Glasgow Warriors

Thomond Park, Limerick

KO: 18:00 IRE & UK (19:00 SA)

Live on TG4, SuperSport, Premier Sports,