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The Offload: South African media revel in Bulls’ victory over Leinster in URC semi-final

La Rochelle’s O’Gara a tad grumpy in advance of Toulon game; Bulls overjoyed after performance; and the numbers game

Leinster's dejected Ryan Baird after the loss to 'rampant Bulls'. Photograph: Steve Haag Sports/Christiaan Kotze

“Rampant Bulls rip Leinster apart,” proclaimed one headline on the South Africa rugby mag website, “You don’t mess around with us at Loftus,” another, as the local media luxuriated in the Bulls 25-20 victory over Leinster in the URC semi-final at Loftus Versfeld.

Dylan Jack wrote: “Despite hosting the match, the Bulls were billed as underdogs as they were without a trio of Springbok stars in Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marcell Coetzee, while Leinster were able to name a line-up with well over 1,000 club appearances combined.”

He then went on to quote Bulls head coach Jake White, the former World Cup winner with the 2007 Springboks, who hailed the win as one of his best with a club team. “This is one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had as a coach. I was lucky enough at the Brumbies to beat the British & Irish Lions.

“But I would say man-for-man, with the pressure that comes with a game like this, especially because Ireland are coming down here in three weeks, that’s the added bonus that makes this one of the best club results I’ve had.

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“For me, and I don’t know what they said in the media before the game, but I think we caught them a little bit. They didn’t think we were going to play that way. They didn’t think we were going to play with that backline.

“One thing Leinster are very good at is analysing opposition. The one team that they couldn’t analyse was the one we picked because I didn’t know we were going to pick that team either. I think we surprised Leinster. Jacques [Nienaber] would have done his homework, I’m sure he did. They would have wanted to kick contestables.

“I think they were surprised because we didn’t give them that set piece. We got it wrong at times today. But there’s no doubt that we surprised them by not giving them the ball they wanted to attack from.”

Brendan Nel, writing for the SuperSport website took umbrage with the referee. He asserted: “Loftus Versfeld is certainly no place for the faint-hearted and Leinster learnt that in droves on Saturday. It was hard to even feel sorry for them as they were helped by a poor refereeing performance by Sam Grove-White.

“Despite the Bulls dominance at times, Grove-White missed high tackles, late hits and a number of normal penalties that would be regulation in any normal game. The most endangered species in Pretoria seems to be a hometown decision as Grove-White not only seemed to favour Leinster at every turn, but at times was coaching them out of penalties as well.

“At times it felt as if the Bulls were playing in Dublin, and if officials are to be this generous to away teams in future, it may well even up several contests.”

He added that Leinster’s “much vaunted side were humbled,” and that “the three consecutive Investec Champions’ Cup losses and the recent talk of mental scars in the camp is becoming all too real for many Irish players.”

O’Gara looking to the future
La Rochelle's South African wing Dillyn Leyds (second left) celebrates with team-mates during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Toulon and Stade Rochelais. Photograph: Matthieu Rondel/Getty Images

Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle beat Toulon 34-29 at the Stade Felix Mayol, and their reward is another road trip this time though it’s the neutral venue of Bordeaux where they will face Toulouse in the French Top 14 semi-final next Friday (8.15pm, local time) at an earlier kickoff time than usual so as not to clash with France’s European Championship football group game against the Netherlands.

O’Gara admitted that he’d been a bit grumpy in the week leading up to the game against Toulon. “I’m happy for the players because the week was a bit difficult. On Tuesday we didn’t agree, I lost my temper. I thought that with an attitude like that, we wouldn’t win against Toulon.

“The rest of the week the players took back control. I’m proud of them because they represented the jersey well. We are strong on the fundamentals of rugby. I saw a real team. For the moment Toulouse does not interest me. We have the opportunity to spend one more week with this group.

“We have an experienced group. I have a lot of respect for Stade Toulouse but last season, we were better than them in the final for 78 minutes. But that’s rugby We’ve had a tough time this season, but we’ve always stuck together. Rugby is not easy. We have a great past but what interests me is the future.”

Toulouse will be looking to try to complete a Champions Cup/French Top 14 double having already beaten Leinster in the European final.

Word of Mouth

“It is so special and something that you can’t put into words. This is our home, and you don’t come around and mess with us.” — The Bulls’ Cameron Hanekom, outstanding in a man-of-the-match performance against Leinster, offers his post-match thoughts.

By the Numbers: 13
Munster's Tadhg Beirne and referee Andrea Piardi during the province's match against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The number of penalties conceded by Munster in their defeat to the Glasgow Warriors. It’s worth bearing in mind that they had a favourable 6-0 count in their favour after 12 minutes of the match but in the next 68 conceded 13 to five awarded to them.