Jake White: Bulls won’t die wondering in URC semi-final against Leinster

SPRINGBOK flank Marco van Staden has recovered from a knee injury and will start against Leinster. Photo: BackpagePix

SPRINGBOK flank Marco van Staden has recovered from a knee injury and will start against Leinster. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 15, 2024


BULLS boss Jake White listing all the achievements of Leinster and their Irish internationals ahead of their URC semi-final at Loftus Versfeld today (4pm start) should be all the motivation his side need to cause an upset.

They will be up against a team fresh from another Champions Cup final, one desperate to get into the URC final for the first time, that has a World Cup-winning head coach as part of their staff and over 20 Irish internationals.

That is enough to intimidate any side, but the Bulls are at Fortress Loftus, with over 22 000 supporters in the stadium and altitude on their side – and, of course, with a semi-final win over Leinster in the inaugural URC season, they will be fired up to reach their second final in three years.

“We are going to have a go, and we will not die wondering,” White said at his team announcement yesterday.

He made minimal changes from last weekend, with loose forward Marco van Staden, wings Devon Williams and Sergeal Petersen, and utility back Cornel Smit coming into the side.

Smit is set for his Bulls debut off the bench, with Van Staden, Williams and Petersen straight into the starting XV as White had to replace some crucial injured stars like Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.

“I am lucky enough that I have rotated my squad enough times this season that bringing anyone into the match will not feel like we are throwing them into the deep end. They have had game time and have the match fitness required at this level,” White said.

“This is probably the biggest club game we have had in a really long time.

“This Leinster side has 25 internationals, a World Cup-winning coach (Jacques Nienaber), and a team that is desperate to win.

“Their current group of players has played at the World Cup, in three European Cup finals, they have played in URC play-offs, and they have played and won the Six Nations.

“All they have done over the last three years is switch the colour of their jerseys, blue this week and green the next.

“That is where we want to be as a franchise too, where it does not matter who starts and who is on the bench, and we are not there yet.

“But the nice thing about sport is there is no given on who should win and who shouldn’t, and we have all been in situations where you think a guy didn’t have a chance, but ends up winning.”

That is exactly how it was two years ago when the Bulls travelled to Dublin and against the odds beat Leinster to reach the final, where they lost to arch rivals the Stormers in Cape Town.

A win over the Irish powerhouse could see them still host a title decider at Loftus, but if Munster beat Glasgow Warriors in the other semi-final later today, a trip to Limerick will be the future for White and his side.

But all the focus will be on today and giving themselves the best chance to come out on top against a side known for their powerful forwards and backline that can strike from anywhere on the field.

If they can stop the forwards of the visitors and prevent them from stringing together multiple phases on attack, it will be a job half done.

Then, taking the points when on offer will be another crucial thing for the home team.

But they should not neglect their attacking weapons that have been coming together for most of the season.

If fullback Willie le Roux and his wings can find some space, they will give the Leinster defenders plenty of headaches.

Teams for Pretoria

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 Nortjé (captain) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Wilco Louw 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Bench: 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.

Bench: 16 Ronan Kelleher 17 Cian Healy 18 Michael Ala’alatoa 19 Ross Molony 20 Jack Conan 21 Luke McGrath 22 Ciaran Frawley 23 Jamie Osborne.