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'They might have the best and the second-best team in the competition'

By Josh Raisey
Leinster/ PA

South Africa and Bulls legend Victor Matfield is hoping his former club mount a late surge to the top of the United Rugby Championship table in their final five matches of the season, but admits that leaders Leinster might have the “best and second-best team in the competition”.

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Jake White’s side will begin a stretch of four home matches on the bounce at Loftus Versfeld – a veritable fortress for them – on Saturday when they face reigning URC champions Munster.

Though the Bulls currently trail Leinster by nine points, SuperSport pundit Matfield recently said in a BKT URC media call that they will be hoping the Lions can “do them a favour” at the weekend when they host Jacques Nienaber’s side at Ellis Park.

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Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White talks about the long-term project he is busy with at Loftus Versfeld

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Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White talks about the long-term project he is busy with at Loftus Versfeld

With the Irish province facing the Lions and the Stormers over the next two weeks in South Africa, the complexion of the URC table could look very different in two weeks’ time.

The third place Bulls host the second place Glasgow Warriors in their four-match run at home, with Saturday’s visitors Munster sitting only one place below them in the ladder. Their final match of the regular season is still in South Africa, against the Sharks in Durban, and Matfield believes the Pretoria-based side will back themselves to go five from five.

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“There’s been a lot of talk about the team that Jake [White] took over for the Champions Cup at the Saints,” the former World Cup winner said. “So it’s a big game for the Bulls to win.

“I think they look at this competition and they believe they need at least a home semi-final. They’re probably hoping with Leinster being in South Africa – I haven’t see their team exactly, it looks like they won’t bring their strongest side over – there might just be an opportunity if Leinster maybe lose one or two games over here in South Africa, for them to finish first on the log.

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“They have five games left, all of them in South Africa, so they’ll back themselves to win five out of five, but I think this is their toughest game. Munster showed us last year what they can do when they came over and beat the Stormers in the final. A quality side Munster, so that’s going to be an interesting game.

“The other one is the Lions versus Leinster, especially for the Bulls – they would love the Lions to do them a favour. It’s never easy, even if you play a Leinster B side – they might have the best and the second-best team in the competition.”

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Abe 1 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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Turlough 6 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

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