Leinster’s Ireland centre Garry Ringrose says they are anticipating a tough battle in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship opener against the Vodacom Bulls at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday.
Eight-time PRO Rugby champions Leinster will host South Africa’s Currie Cup holders in arguably the most anticipated fixture of the opening weekend of the inaugural tournament.
The URC will feature 16 teams from five countries, battling it out over 144 matches to reach the eight-team playoffs in a season spanning eight months until the final in June.
It will be the first time that the Stormers, Lions, Sharks and Bulls face their counterparts from the northern hemisphere in a season-long tournament.
The Cheetahs and Kings were involved in the PRO14 between 2017 and 2019.
Speaking during an online media conference on Wednesday, Ringrose said he expects the four South African clubs to offer a much-tougher challenge than they have faced before.
“South African teams tend to pride themselves on their physicality,” Ringrose said. “They build their games on their set pieces, they have athletes outside in the wider channels that could leave you for dead, pace-wise.
“Certainly, when they get it right, South African teams are incredibly difficult to beat. The teams that are joining now will bring in a much-stronger level than what we played against in the past.
“The Bulls have been incredible. The narrative around the type of rugby they play, the Bulls put that to bed. If you look at their last five or six results – scoring close to 40 points per game. They are probably a team that can do it all.”
While it will be their first experience of playing in the northern hemisphere, the Bulls will be able to lean on the experience of Marcell Coetzee.
The Springbok loose forward spent nearly five years with Ulster between 2016 and 2021, finishing the previous PRO14 season as the top try-scorer.
“Marcell Coetzee is well drilled on Leinster,” Ringrose added. “He is clearly a cult hero at the Bulls now at the moment.
“I am sure he will have the guys well drilled and ready for the challenge in playing Leinster. It is a daunting task for us to prepare for a team we haven’t played before.
“We are facing the in-form [South African] team, coming in hot, and we will have to be at our best if we are thinking of coming away with a win.”
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