The semi-finals of the 2022-23 URC season take place this weekend. With one exception, the quarter-finals were close and entertaining matches, so let’s hope the semi-finals go the same for our viewing pleasure this weekend.
Here is a look at the two games with odds from BetXchange.
Stormers VS Connacht – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
When: Saturday, May 13
The biggest upset of the quarters saw seventh-seed Connacht take down second-seeded Ulster in Belfast. This was a huge win for the Irish province, often seen as the weakest of the four, but it was also a huge win for the Stormers in its own way.
That way, by beating the Bulls in the lone South African derby in the quarter-finals, the Stormers don’t have to leave South Africa for the semis. While Connect will present a big challenge, not having to fly to Ulster – which they would have had to as the lower seed if the Ulstermen had advanced – is a prize that they could scarcely have dreamed of before the weekend began. Their path to becoming back-to-back URC champions opened up in a big way over the course of the quarter-final weekend.
Connacht is 80 minutes away from the second major title of its professional existence, with their only previous trophy at that level being their Pro12 win in 2016. That means they will throw everything they have at the Stormers, who should be very aware of the Irish side’s ability to create turnover ball after their poaching clinic at Ravenhill in the quarters. They have won seven matches on the bounce, are full of confidence, and play with a chip on their shoulder that makes the team play a level above the sum of its parts.
Expect this one to be physical and expect it to be won and the set piece and breakdown. I was very impressed with Connacht last weekend, but Northern Hemisphere sides just don’t travel well to South Africa. Stormers beat Connacht in a bonus point win in Round 2. I expect this one to be closer – Connacht will cover – but Stormers have too much in their bag to fall here.
Leinster VS Munster – Aviva Stadium, Dublin
When: Saturday, May 13
This is an interesting one. Normally, Leinster would go all out to beat their arch-rivals, playing their top-level squad as they know how dangerous Munster can be. The problem is that they have the small matter of the Heineken Champions Cup final against La Rochelle in Dublin next weekend, a competition they are desperate to win, having claimed the trophy just once since the 2011-12 season.
The good news for Leinster is that they have bags of depth. This means they can give the likes of James Lowe and Robbie Henshaw on the sidelines, knowing that they have more than enough in their reserves to make this difficult for the side from Limerick.
Also playing in Leinster’s favor is that Munster is massively depleted through injuries picked up in their quart-final win over Glasgow at Scotstoun. The list of guys that went down last weekend – Peter O’Mahony, RG Snyman, Conor Murray, Malakai Fekitoa, Diarmuid Barron, and Calvin Nash – is astonishing. How they can cover for those players – especially the inspirational leadership of O’Mahoney and the ability of Murray to move them around the park – is hard to guess.
Leinster wins this and – depending on who Munster gets back in their lineup – I think they win it by 20.