Ireland star returns for Leinster after lengthy layoff, one Rugby World Cup winner back for Bulls as Munster drop RG Snyman

David Skippers

Leinster and Ireland centre Garry Ringrose.

The United Rugby Championship’s play-off stage continues with the semi-finals set to get underway on Saturday and there are two highly anticipated clashes lined up.

The first sees the Bulls hosting Leinster at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria before defending champions Munster and Glasgow Warriors face off at Thomond Park.

Bulls v Leinster

Bulls director of rugby Jake White has made three changes to his run-on side which did the duty in last weekend’s quarter-final victory against Benetton at the same venue.

The big news is the return of Springbok back-row and 2024 Rugby World Cup winner Marco van Staden, who comes into the starting line-up to replace fellow Bok Nizaam Carr, who drops down to the replacements bench.

Elsewhere, there are two changes to the backline with Devon Williams replacing injured Bok speedster Kurt-Lee Arendse on the left wing while Sergeal Petersen takes over from Sebastian de Klerk in the number 14 jersey.

The only other change sees Cornel Smit coming into the matchday squad as one of the backline replacements.

Up front, Gerhard Steenekamp (loosehead prop), Johan Grobbelaar (hooker) and Wilco Louw (tighthead) lead the pack with Ruan Vermaak and captain Ruan Nortje packing down at lock.

Van Staden slots in at openside flank with Elrigh Louw on the blindside and Cameron Hanekom at number eight to complete the pack.

In the backline, Embrose Papier continues at scrum-half and combines with fly-half Johan Goosen and the two half-backs link up with midfield duo Harold Vorster and David Kriel while Williams and Petersen are joined by experienced full-back Willie le Roux to complete the back three.

Smit forms part of a five-three bench split alongside Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Reinhardt Ludwig, Carr, who are the forward replacements as well as Keagan Johannes an Chris Smith, who cover the rest of the backline.

Meanwhile, Leinster have been boosted by the return of experienced Ireland centre Garry Ringrose, who makes a welcome return from a lengthy injury layoff and is in line for his first Leinster appearance since January.

Second-row James Ryan captains the team once more, with Ringrose starting at outside centre, and Robbie Henshaw moving to the inside.

Jimmy O’Brien is retained at full-back, with Jordan Larmour and James Lowe named on the wings while Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park continue their partnership at half-back.

The pack is unchanged from last week’s win as Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong continue in the front-row while Joe McCarthy joins Ryan once more in the second row

Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris complete a formidable looking pack. Among the replacements, Jack Conan returns after missing last weekend’s win, while Jamie Osborne moves to the bench following Ringrose’s return.

The teams

Bulls: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 David Kriel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco Van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (c), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Cornel Smit

Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan (c), 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Jamie Osborne

Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Kick-off: 16:00 local (15:00 BST, 14:00 GMT)
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Live on: SuperSport, RTÉ, Premier Sports, Flo Rugby & URC.tv

Munster v Glasgow Warriors

Springboks-Ireland dress rehearsal, altitude matters and magnificent Munster: URC semi-finals storylines

There are four personnel changes and one positional switch to the Munster side that beat Ospreys in last week’s quarter-final.

Mike Haley and Alex Nankivell come into the backline as Simon Zebo moves to the wing with Fineen Wycherley and Jack O’Donoghue starting in the pack.

Haley, Shane Daly and Zebo are named in the back three as Nankivell returns from an ankle injury to renew his centre partnership with Antoine Frisch.

Craig Casey and Jack Crowley are the starting half-backs for the fifth game in succession.

Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer pack down in an unchanged front-row with Fineen Wycherley and captain Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.

Peter O’Mahony, John Hodnett and Jack O’Donoghue complete the side.

Diarmuid Barron, John Ryan and Oli Jager provide the front-row back-up, with RG Snyman, who has been dropped to the bench, Gavin Coombes and Alex Kendellen completing the forward cover.

Conor Murray and Seán O’Brien are the backline replacements. On the injury front, Calvin Nash was unavailable due to a leg knock.

Meanwhile, Glasgow head coach Franco Smith has named an unchanged starting XV for Saturday’s semi-final showdown.

For tomorrow’s clash, 22 of the matchday 23 to feature in last week’s win are retained, Murphy Walker’s inclusion amongst the replacements the only alteration as he comes in for Nathan McBeth.

The selection means that once more an all-international pack will take to the field for the opening kick-off, with Zander Fagerson – after an impressive 80-minute display last weekend – anchoring the front-row alongside Jamie Bhatti and Johnny Matthews.

Scott Cummings and Richie Gray continue their partnership in the engine room, the former having also been named in the Scotland summer tour squad announced earlier this week.

Jack Dempsey retains the number eight jersey after a barnstorming display against the Stormers last time out, the Scotland international once again flanked by Matt Fagerson and Rory Darge for the trip to Thomond Park.

Behind the scrum, Tom Jordan partners George Horne in the half-backs, the latter having turned in a player of the match-winning display to help guide his team to the semi-finals.

Sione Tuipulotu starts at inside centre after beating more defenders than any other Warrior last weekend, with Huw Jones lining up outside him in the 13 jersey.

Josh McKay starts at full-back, as Sebastian Cancelliere and captain Kyle Steyn – fresh from making more metres than anyone else with ball in hand at Scotstoun last Saturday – complete the starting XV.

Walker’s inclusion on the bench sees Oli Kebble shift to the number 17 shirt, George Turner completing the front-row cover after making his 100th appearance for the club last weekend.

Max Williamson retains his place in the matchday 23 in the week he was named in a senior Scotland squad for the first time, with Euan Ferrie and Henco Venter completing a six-two split of forwards and backs.

The back-line is covered by Jamie Dobie – who started on the wing in last season’s victory over Munster at Thomond Park – and Ross Thompson, whose try on his 50th outing for Glasgow Warriors sealed the win last Saturday night.

The teams

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Shane Daly, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (c), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 John Ryan, 18 Oli Jager, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Seán O’Brien, 23 Alex Kendellen

Glasgow: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Kyle Steyn (c), 10 Tom Jordan, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Johnny Matthews, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Murphy Walker, 19 Max Williamson, 20 Euan Ferrie, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Jamie Dobie, 23 Ross Thompson

Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Kick-off: 18:00 BST (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Federico Vedovelli (Italy)
TMO: Matteo Lipirini (Italy)
Live on: TG4, Premier Sports, SuperSport, Flo Rugby & URC.tv

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