Munster may be without some of their Ireland internationals but they remain a world-class outfit, warns Vodacom Bulls pivot Chris Smith ahead of the two sides’ Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash in Pretoria this weekend.
Loftus Versfeld will be the setting for the much-anticipated clash between the Tshwane-based side and the Irish giants on Saturday, with kick-off at 4:05pm.
The visitors are on their tour of South Africa without at least nine of their players who are on national duty for Ireland ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations match against England. However, Munster Rugby has travelled with a strong and experienced squad that will prove a threat on the tour.
“I know most of the Irish internationals are away, but there are a few guys who have international caps who are not currently with the Irish squad,” said Smith in the buildup to Saturday’s URC encounter.
“They are definitely a world-class outfit and have had a good run of recent results, hammering a few sides on the way. We have a tough challenge awaiting us this weekend.”
In their arsenal, Munster will have Springbok centre Damian de Allende, who has recently recovered from an abdomen injury. He is one of a handful of South African-born players, including Jean Kleyn and Chris Cloete, in the Irish side’s squad.
The Bulls will be well acquainted with the World Cup-winning midfielder and wary of the threat he poses.
“De Allende is a world-class No 12. So that [his return from injury] will change the dynamic, and we will have to be at our best if we want to put Munster to the sword,” said Smith.
“He is a big ball-carrier and at the same time he has great feet, and he has an unbelievable pass.”
The 27-year-old flyhalf is relishing the opportunity to test himself against some of the best players in the business in the URC. This weekend will be no different, he believes.
“What you want is to be constantly playing against international opposition,” he said.
“And, for me, it will be a good challenge this weekend and a great opportunity to measure myself against one of the top flyhalves, like Jack Crowley, in the URC.”
The Bulls will be hoping altitude and the capital city heat will play to their advantage against the touring Irish side on Saturday.
“We always see when the coastal sides come up to Loftus Versfeld that they do battle with altitude. We will be hoping that this weekend the sun will come out to play,” said Smith.
“We have a 4:05 kick-off and hopefully the sun will be cooking and that will be more in our favour, together with the altitude.
“Hopefully on Saturday we can execute our plan that we’ve put in place, and hopefully we will get a good result.”
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