Munster welcome interprovincial rivals Ulster to Thomond Park this Saturday at 3pm for crucial Pro12 fixture.
Buoyed by a hard fought 10-7 win against Glasgow Warriors last weekend, Munster come into the game in a rich vein of form and looking to guarantee a home semi final.
For their part, Ulster’s 24-24 draw at home to Cardiff last time out has put a serious dent in their playoff ambitions with Les Kiss’ side now outside the playoff places and with little room for error.
The Cardiff draw last weekend has Ulster in 5th on 63 points level with the Scarlets in 4th but with the Welch team get the nod due to having more wins.
For Munster, while a playoff place is not yet entirely guaranteed, it would take a mammoth collapse at this stage which is not going to happen. The men in red lie in 2nd place on 72 points and two points adrift of Leinster.
Rassie Erasmus knows a win of any kind at the weekend will most likely nail down a home semi final. The South African will certainly be pleased with the result against Glasgow last weekend but would have had plenty to work on during the week.
Munster were superb in defence. Line speed, aggression and commitment were there in spades but the attack was not up to it’s usual high standards. Several try scoring opportunities were squandered and had they been taken, Munster could well have come away with a bonus point win.
Indeed Glasgow must have questioned how they were just a score behind with the game entering the final ten minutes. Stuart Hogg’s broken play effort was the only chink in the otherwise impregnable Munster defence as the Warriors attacking plans were snuffed out by a suffocating defensive structure.
It is hard to see how Ulster will have the fire power to cause Munster too many problems but the fitness of Tyler Bleyendaal is going to play a huge factor in this tie.
The Kiwi has been hugely influential for Munster this year and his cool temperament and control of the game has been key in implementing Erasmus’ game plan. Being selected alongside Duncan Williams at 9 is not the concern it would have been a few months ago.
Williams has been superb deputising for Murray when called upon this year and his passing has improved to allow Bleyendaal more time on the ball.
Away to Treviso and home to Connacht are Munster’s last two game and with Leinster facing a trip to Ravenhill in the next round, there could still be a chance for Munster to sneak top spot.
Munster have named a strong side with the most notable absentees being Murray and Stander. That’s quite understandable given the opposition next week but regardless of personnel Munster should have enough to beat Ulster.