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The Semi-Finals of the 2024 United Rugby Championship picked up right where the Quarter-Finals left off, delivering a series of intense and nail-biting matchups throughout the Play-Off rounds. We have been privileged to see some of the league’s leading stars delivering scintillating rugby, keeping everyone on the edge of their seat from minute 1, to minute 80.

The first Semi-Final of the weekend saw the Vodacom Bulls host Leinster in an enthralling tie. Closely fought from the outset, the game was on a knife edge going into the last 15 minutes, tied at 20-20. As the minutes ticked away and the intensity was rising, Sergeal Petersen soared through the air to receive a pinpoint box kick from Embrose Papier to go over in the corner and end Leinster’s hopes of a first United Rugby Championship Grand Final.

Our second Semi-Final produced another upset as Glasgow Warriors travelled to face Munster at Thomond Park. After two yellow cards for Glasgow Warriors, they managed to emerge with a 4-point lead and just 6 minutes to play. This resilience would bear fruit for the Warriors as Alex Nankivell received a red card, giving the Warriors a one-man advantage. The resultant penalty kick was put down the middle by George Horne to extend their lead to 7, which they would retain until the final whistle, confirming a Grand Final spot in Pretoria this weekend.

For the third year running the Grand Final of the United Rugby Championship will be hosted in South Africa, shifting from the seafront of Cape Town to the highveld of Pretoria. The Vodacom Bulls reaching their second final in 3 years will be looking to avenge their loss to the DHL Stormers in the inaugural Grand Final. Having finished second in the conference this season, the Vodacom Bulls have carried their fine form into the play-off rounds. The Bulls have largely maintained their high scoring rugby style that delivered for them this year, despite some high-profile injuries to their World Cup winning Springbok wingers.

The Glasgow Warriors will be the visitors on Saturday reaching their first United Rugby Championship Final, having bested the holders, Munster last weekend. The Warriors spent much of this season at the top of the conference table but ended up in fourth after a hectic final 3 rounds. Having also adopted an expansive brand of rugby during the regular season, Glasgow Warriors have added more grit to their game in the knockout rounds, leading the play-off sides in total turnovers won (7). In the Grand Final they will be looking to continue to blend these elements of their evolving game together as they look to maintain their competition leading average ruck speed (3.28 seconds), carry metres made (435.89m per game) and clean breaks per 80 minutes (9.6) in order to topple a Vodacom Bulls side with a buoyant Loftus crowd behind them.

The Grand Final on Saturday promises to be a blockbuster affair, with both the Vodacom Bulls and Glasgow Warriors thriving on expansive running rugby. Notably, both teams rank in the top three for entries into the opposition 22m (Warriors 2nd, Bulls 3rd) and total tries across the season (Bulls 1st, Warriors 3rd). While the running game will undoubtedly make headlines, the small margins gained from successful kicks will be crucial for maintaining scoreboard pressure. The Warriors will be looking to maintain their discipline as Johan Goosen is a threat from all across the park, particularly at altitude, leading the competition with conversion success percentage this season. On the flip side, the Bulls must tread carefully to prevent their free-flowing, adrenaline-fueled attack from morphing into a leaky defence. The Warriors have demonstrated the ability to strike back swiftly, as witnessed last week when Kyle Steyn capitalized on fumbled possession, converting it into a maximum score just as the yellow card period for the Warriors was ending.

While the Play-Offs have provided trials and tribulations for our final 8 sides, the competitors have been whittled down to our final two. It all comes down to the United Rugby Championship Grand Final this weekend at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday to decide who will be victorious and claim the trophy in the competition’s third iteration. Will it be the mighty Vodacom Bulls looking for redemption for their loss 2 years ago, or will it be the fierce Glasgow Warriors who will be looking to claim United Rugby Championship glory at their first attempt? Only time will tell…

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