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Ruan Nortje: We believe Leinster won’t beat us

The Vodacom Bulls, the only South African team to have clinched three Super Rugby titles, have called on all South Africans to show the Irish what it’s like to play a knockout clash in the country.

Skipper Ruan Nortje says the Vodacom Bulls will rise to the occasion and repeat their Dublin heroics in 2022 by knocking off Leinster at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Jake White’s troops beat Benetton in Pretoria last week to clinch a first home semi-final in the Vodacom URC, and will tackle the Irish giants in the opening salvo of the play-offs this week.

The Bulls provided one of the all-time upsets of the competition by eliminating Leinster in the 2021-22 semi-finals in the Irish capital. But the six-time Pro12/14 champions exacted revenge earlier this season with a 47-14 victory at the RDS Arena.

White has called on all South Africans to show the Irish what it’s like to play a knockout clash in the country, and speaking in a Bulls conference today, Nortje acknowledged the challenge that awaits them while highlighting what they learnt from previous clashes with Leo Cullen’s men.

“We know Leinster is a quality side, the last time they played us they beat us 47-14, and that speaks for itself,” he told reporters.

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“But we don’t really look into who’s the underdogs or who’s really favourites for a game; it’s a play-off game and for us, it’s just about going out and giving it a full go.

“It’s the small margins where they [Leinster] beat teams. As soon as they get a small advantage or a sniff they adapt to that and capitalise on that opportunity.

“Defensively it’s going to be massive for us. The last few games we’ve leaked a few tries so that’s a place in our game they’ll try to exploit us. But we pride ourselves on our physicality.”

“The only and biggest thing we’ve taken out of that game is belief. We’ve got to believe that we have the ability to win,” Nortje added.

“We went into that game that year telling ourselves anything is possible; we were up against it and probably again this weekend as well.

“So it’s all about believing in the guy next to you and going there and giving everything you have.”

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The Bulls have clinched three Super Rugby titles, the only South African team to do so, and their home-ground advantage has been a fortress. The Pretoria outfit boast semi-final wins over the Crusaders in 2007, 2009, and 2010, with only one blemish in 2013 against the Brumbies.

They thrashed the Chiefs at Loftus in 2009 to lift their second Super Rugby trophy, before defending it the next season in a historic meeting with the DHL Stormers in Soweto.

“It’s such a rich history here at the Bulls, going back to Super Rugby; for us, it’s about honouring those days and going out to make it a special occasion,” Nortje said.

“We want to go out and put on a quality display of rugby. At the end of the day, we’re really excited and privileged to have this opportunity to have a URC semi-final at Loftus.”

This article was first published in SA Rugby magazine.

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