World Cup-winning Springbok midfielder Damian de Allende has set his sights on lifting the Guinness PRO14 trophy, claiming his new club Munster have the ability to cause a massive upset in Friday night’s semi-final against Leinster, the defending champions.

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Leinster won the regular-season fixture a fortnight ago between the two clubs, taking the spoils narrowly 27-25, and are unbeaten this season after 21 PRO14 and European Champions Cup games. 

However, de Allende insists that Munster, under South African coach Johann van Graan, have the ambition to win trophies, a potential that excites him. “For me personally no matter where I play I always strive to win tournaments and championships,” he said. 

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“I signed for Munster because I feel they have the credentials, the coaching staff and the heart. From what I’ve watched on television – obviously, I have only played two games here – I feel they have that team environment that they actually want to achieve, where you could go to another squad and you will have all the names and stars but they aren’t working for that success.

“I feel just playing in these two games there is a real want and desire to win the semi-finals and finals, and not just once or twice but consistently. And not just in PRO14, but in the Champions Cup as well. Friday night is going to be a very tough encounter. Hopefully, we will pitch up.

“We know it’s just a mental thing. We haven’t played a lot of rugby over the past six months, so there will be a few sore bodies. If we get the right mindset and we pitch up knowing we have one opportunity, and not worry about anything else, just stay in that moment for 80 minutes, then hopefully we can walk off with big smiles on our faces on Friday night.”

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Midfielder de Allende feels right at home in the tribal clash between the two Irish sides, the new Munster player explaining it reminds him of the north-south derbies between the Stormers and Bulls in South Africa.

“It is quite personal. For me, it is quite similar to when I played for the Stormers against the Bulls. It’s like a north-south derby – it’s personal and physical. It gets quite intense on the field, even though you have a massive amount of respect for each other. 

“Those Irish guys are competing for spots to play for Ireland, but there is still that mutual respect for each other on and off the pitch. I probably need to play a few more, but I certainly do understand the way they see it and it’s very encouraging to help them beat Leinster as well.”

Leinster will start as odds-on favourites but Munster hope to be third time lucky as it’s the third consecutive season they have faced their arch-rivals at this stage of the PRO14 season. De Allende is champing at the bit to get out there. His likely match-up against Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose – the incumbent Irish centres – will be keenly watched, especially after the Leinster pair got the better of Munster in the last clash.

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“They are both world-class centres, both have been very good at international level. Leinster were very good and they put in some good kicks behind us as well. We know that we can’t put too many at the breakdown. Sometimes we are committing too many guys, especially on our defensive line.

“If we commit too many guys and we are short on defence, they will exploit us very easily. They did so in that first game. We need to be aware of that. They are also very physical and very fast and we will have to be switched on.”

De Allende added that while the first game took its toll physically after so long off due to the lockdown, the team needed their win over Connacht last Sunday to give them confidence for Friday night.

“That first game against Leinster was pretty tough on the body. I’d been out for long and hadn’t played and to come up against Leinster, a world-class team, the number one or two team in the world at the moment at club level is quite a challenge.

“It’s a good test for us as a team going forward. We had quite a few new guys who came in as well and we held up well. Last week was a lot better in terms of the result, but it was also very good for the semi-finals. Connacht was very physical. There was a lot of energy and it felt like we needed almost a tough game like that before a semi-final.”

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