South Africa

URC semifinals locked in: Where, when and who

The Bulls were expected to enjoy a comfortable knockout, but it proved to be anything but as they were challenged all the way by Benetton.

The United Rugby Championship (URC) semifinals were decided over the weekend with defending champs Munster, the Bulls, Leinster and Glasgow Warriors all still in the running to reach the Grand Finale.

It was home ground advantage that played a big part in deciding the semis, with all four home sides progressing, and three of those teams were made to work hard for the win.

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Leinster were arguably the only team to enjoy a comfortable game after they took a 17-0 lead into halftime and led 22-3 after 45 minutes, before a back-and-forth finish saw them claim a 43-20 win over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Top of the table Munster were expected to brush aside eighth placed Ospreys, but were instead forced into a tough battle that saw them lead 17-7 at halftime, before adding just two penalties in the second half for a 23-7 win at Thomond Park in Limerick.

Challenged all the way

The Bulls were also expected to enjoy a comfortable knockout, but it proved to be anything but as they were challenged all the way by a Benetton team that just wouldn’t go away at Loftus Versfeld.

The Bulls led 17-8 at halftime, only for Benetton to stick with them in the second half, reducing the score to 20-18 at a stage and only trailed 27-23 going into the final 10 minutes before a late Johan Goosen penalty gave the hosts a bit of breathing room at the end.

The Stormers and Glasgow then battled out the tightest game of the weekend at a wet and windy Scotstoun Stadium, with the hosts eventually sealing a comfortable looking 27-10 win, but that was only due to two late converted tries.

Manie Libbok missed all four of his kicks at goal, costing the Stormers 10 points in the match and that proved costly as Glasgow led 6-0 at halftime and 13-10 with seven minutes left, before a Henco Venter score and a mess behind the visitors tryline after the fulltime hooter secured the win.

The Bulls will now host Leinster in a blockbuster semifinal clash at Loftus on Saturday afternoon in a 4pm kick-off, that is made all the more salivating by the fact that the Springboks and Ireland will be battling it out in two matches in SA in July, one of which will be in Pretoria.

The other semi sees Munster welcome Glasgow to Thomond Park for a 7pm kick-off for an Irish v Scottish derby to end the weekends URC action.