2024 Leinster Rugby vs Blue Bulls

BKT United Rugby Championship: Round 13 Match-By-Match Preview

BKT United Rugby Championship: Round 13 Match-By-Match Preview

Get ready for an epic clash, as Leinster faces the Vodacom Bulls in the BKT United Rugby Championship. Read the match preview for insights and predictions!

Mar 29, 2024 by Philip Bendon
BKT United Rugby Championship: Round 13 Match-By-Match Preview

Round 13 of the BKT United Rugby Championship gets underway Friday evening, as first-place Leinster Rugby and second-place Vodacom Bulls clash in the most high-octane fixture of the season thus far.

Here is a match-by-match preview for Round 13 of the 2024 BKT United Rugby Championship:

Leinster Rugby Vs. Vodacom Bulls

It’s the biggest game of the season so far in the BKT URC, with the first hosting the second at a packed RDS. 

Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde is expecting the sternest of challenges from the visiting Bulls. 

“They are very strong," said McBryde, a Welshman. "They are obviously very comfortable with their identity in the way they play the game. They look to dominate up front, and they have got multiple threats behind as well in broken play. It’s going to be a tough match for us, what with trying to integrate everybody back together. They are a quality team. It is a big game.” 

Leinster is four points clear of the Bulls at the top of the table, with a home match against Leicester coming up next week in the Investec Champions Cup, and have won all four of their pool matches. 

But having missed out on silverware for the past two seasons, they are remaining firmly grounded. 

“We are not going to get carried away,” McBryde said. “We have been in this situation on previous occasions and haven’t got anything to show for it, so it’s learning those lessons from the last two seasons, and hopefully, we can get some reward for all the hard work that’s gone on. 

“We weren’t that far away. You are only talking a couple of points. 

“We are coming to the business end of the season, so it’s a bit more serious now. 

“It’s about making the right calls at the right time in those crucial minutes in games. 

“Jacques Nienaber has joined us this year, and he’s got a wealth of experience with regard to dealing with those pressure moments. He has said himself, sometimes you have got to go through the pain and learn the lessons in order to be able to come out on the right side of those close games. 

“It’s been good learning for myself to listen to Jacques speak about some of his experiences. 

“I hope we can take all those messages on board and get some silverware.” 

Leinster is boosted by the return of a host of Ireland Six Nations title winners, with Josh van der Flier, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Joe McCarthy, Jordan Larmour, Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher and Jack Conan starting, while Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Caelan Doris and Jamison Gibson-Park will add further firepower from the bench. 

“It’s great to have the Irish boys back on the back of a Six Nations championship,” McBryde said. “If you win something, you get that feeling you want to win again, so hopefully, we can benefit from that ride as well.” 

The Bulls have arrived in Dublin showing six changes from the side that claimed a 31-10 bonus-point victory away to the Dragons last weekend, with Elrigh Louw returning to the back row following a shoulder injury. 

“I am told this game will be played out in front of a sold-out crowd, which sends a good message to our team," said Bulls head coach Jake White. “It means we are doing something right, it means people want to see us play. 

“It will be a big game. It is 1 playing 2. Leinster are an incredible team, one of the best clubs in the world, with a group of players who have played in many big games, test matches included. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to measure ourselves against one of the strongest, in-form teams over the past couple of years. It will give me and the coaches a good chance to see where we have grown over the last couple of seasons.

“We must at least give ourselves a chance. We don’t want to come here and not fire a shot. This is a great opportunity for us to give it a go.”

Dragons RFC Vs. Zebre Parma

As well as a top-of-the-table clash, Friday night also sees a basement battle with 16th entertaining 15th at Rodney Parade. 

The Dragons welcome back Wales regulars Aaron Wainwright, Rio Dyer and Elliott Dee into their starting lineup, while fellow international Ben Carter makes his first start since mid-November, having recovered from a serious hamstring injury. 

Head coach Dai Flanagan says 11-cap lock Carter is returning as an even more effective player, having beefed up during his time out of the game. 

“You can see the physicality he’s developed,” Flanagan said. “His work rate is through the roof, and his numbers are always top of any chart when he plays. But, with this extra weight he’s put on and his lean muscle, we expect more positive impacts in the game. We expect him to ball carry and win collisions across the park.”

The Dragons are set to give a debut from the bench to Moldovan prop Dmitri Arhip, who has had previous spells at the Ospreys and Cardiff. 

Zebre also has Six Nations stars back on duty, including full-back Lorenzo Pani who will be hoping for another successful day on Welsh soil, having scored a fine try during Italy’s victory at the Principality Stadium a fortnight ago. 

Hollywoodbets Sharks Vs. Edinburgh Rugby

It’s safe to say that Edinburgh boss Sean Everitt will be suitably motivated as he returns to his old Durban stomping ground. 

The South African was axed from his job as Sharks coach in November 2022 after some 15 years of service to the franchise. 

Having taken up a new challenge in Scotland, he is enjoying a pretty decent first season with Edinburgh, which is sixth in the BKT URC table with eight wins from 12 matches. 

The Sharks’ Springbok prop Vincent Koch believes Everitt will have a point to prove. 

“I can imagine what it will be like for him returning to coach against his old team,” he said. “I have been part of clubs before, and I left, and I then ended up playing against them. There is always extra motivation in those situations. 

“You want to prove a point, and in Sean’s case, I am sure he will want to prove a point and psyche his players up. He wants the result as well, so I think the Edinburgh players can expect a nice pre-game chat from their coach.” 

Former Saracens tighthead Koch will make his first start for the Sharks after coming off the bench in last week’s much-needed victory over Ulster, while Edinburgh are strengthened by Scotland stars Duhan van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman and Jamie Ritchie.

Benetton Rugby Vs. Connacht Rugby

This is a  meeting of two teams just on the edge of the playoff zone, with 10th taking on ninth, so there’s much at stake. 

Both sides also will be aiming to make amends for defeats last weekend. 

Benetton has Azzurri stars Michele Lamaro, Juan Ignacio Brex and Tommaso Menoncello returning after playing key roles in Italy’s best Six Nations campaign. 

“It’s one we are all looking forward to and itching to play in," said Connacht’s Kiwi flanker Shamus Hurley-Langton. “It’s pretty much like a test match. They are a test-match quality side with some good, experienced international players, so it’s a good opportunity for us to test ourselves against the best.”

Ospreys Vs. Emirates Lions, Saturday

Welsh rugby stalwart Sam Parry is aiming to celebrate a major landmark in his career with a crucial bounce-back victory. 

The 32-year-old hooker will make his 150th appearance for the Ospreys in their must-win meeting with the Lions at the Swansea.com Stadium. 

Following successive league defeats away to Edinburgh and home to Munster, they have to come out on top in order to keep alive their hopes of making the end-of-season playoffs. 

They are down in 11th, four points adrift of the eighth-place Lions. 

“Obviously, it’s nice to have the personal milestone, and I look forward to celebrating that,” said the five-cap Parry, who has been with the Ospreys for a decade. “But there’s a big job to do against a good Lions team, and we definitely need to bounce back and put in a good performance, especially after the Munster loss last week. 

“That was a tough one, and we were really disappointed with it. 

“We lost at home. That’s not something we like to happen often, so there has to be a reaction. 

“There have been some honest conversations this week looking at our executions, our skillsets and bits of the game we didn’t do well. We expect more from ourselves. 

“We have to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes and put in a performance we are proud of in front of our fans.

“This is a massive game for us. It’s huge. We do need to win if we want to be in that top 8. 

“The defeats have made it difficult, but one thing I would say about this team is we won’t give up until it’s impossible to make it. 

“It would have been ideal to win the last two games, but they are gone now. We have to learn very quickly and put in a big performance because this Lions team is very good and they are going to take some beating.” 

The visitors from Johannesburg showed their threat with an impressive 38-14 bonus-point victory over Connacht in Galway last weekend. 

They show just the one change, with Conraad van Vuuren coming in at tighthead prop for Asenathi Ntlabakanye, who is suspended due to his red card in the west of Ireland. 

The Ospreys have Wales Six Nations forwards Adam Beard and Gareth Thomas back on regional duty, while fullback Max Nagy returns on the bench after a lengthy injury layoff.

DHL Stormers Vs. Ulster Rugby

Following a player-of-the-match performance in the 43-21 victory over Edinburgh, the versatile Damian Willemse switches to inside center this week. 

Giving his thoughts on the Stormers’ enterprising style of play, he said: “The level of rugby we are playing, sometimes it does come with a lot of errors.

“But if we can improve on the things we are good at, I think that will give us a good opportunity to do a few wonderful things in this competition going forward. 

“It’s about trying to get better every weekend and take it from there.” 

Looking at the opposition, Willemse added: “Ulster are a quality side. We know that. It’s going to be an arm wrestle. 

“We have to make sure we make ourselves proud. It’s an important weekend for us. We are looking forward to the game and to lifting the level of intensity a notch.”

Scarlets Vs. Glasgow Warriors

Having made more meters than any other player in the BKT URC last weekend following a switch to fullback, Ioan Lloyd now reverts to No. 10 for the meeting with high-flying Glasgow. 

Lloyd was employed as a fly-half by Wales during the Six Nations, starting one match and coming off the bench in the other four, while that’s also where he has played most of his rugby for the Scarlets this season in the wake of his move from Bristol. 

But with the man who was first choice for Wales during the Championship - Sam Costelow - selected in the playmaking berth for the Llanelli-based region last weekend, the versatile Lloyd was shifted to No. 15. 

He responded by running for 152 meters in a dramatic last-gasp victory over Benetton. 

“For us, it’s important he’s on the field," head coach Dwayne Peel explained. "He is a player who can beat people and make things happen. We felt with Sam and him coming back last week that we were keen to get them both on the park, and I felt they did a good job. 

“I thought Ioan was really dangerous from the back. It gives him that bit of space to use his quality and his footwork. But both him and Sam will get time in the saddle at No. 10.” 

It’s now Lloyd’s turn at the pivot, with Costelow not involved, while fellow Wales squad member Ryan Elias is back fit to captain the side from hooker and scrum-half Kieran Hardy makes his 100th appearance. 

Glasgow coach Franco Smith, who has Scotland stars Rory Darge, Scott Cummings and Zander Fagerson returning, commented: “The Scarlets will be a tough test, especially after their win over Benetton last weekend. 

“They will take a lot of belief and confidence from that win; they will see it as a turning point in their season, and we have no doubt that they will throw everything at us.” 

Munster Rugby Vs. Cardiff Rugby

Both teams are bolstered by the return of a number of players from Six Nations duty. 

Munster has title winners Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and Jack Crowley back on board, with Beirne captaining the side from the second row. 

As for Cardiff, they are reinforced by Wales squad members Cam Winnett, Josh Adams, Alex Mann, Keiron Assiratti, Corey Domachowski and Evan Lloyd. 

Fullback Winnett, who started all five Six Nations games, said: “I really enjoyed my time with Wales, but I was really looking forward to coming back to Cardiff as well. The boys here are really good, and they have helped me loads in terms of developing the way I am as a player.” 

Looking ahead to the outing at Limerick’s Thomond Park, he said: “It will be my first time playing there, so I am really looking forward to it. It will be tough, it always is over in Ireland, but we will give it our best shot.”

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