Home Sport Warriors coach sounds warning to Bulls on his return to Loftus

Warriors coach sounds warning to Bulls on his return to Loftus

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Smith, a Springbok centre in Nick Mallett’s Tri-Nations-winning team of 1998, pointed out that in the last URC final, Munster travelled to Cape Town to beat the Stormers.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith is prepared to bring the fight to the Bulls in Saturday’s URC final. Picture: Adam Davey

GLASGOW Warriors coach Franco Smith says his team is not concerned about the travel factor ahead of their URC final against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (6pm kick-off).

Smith, a Springbok centre in Nick Mallett’s Tri-Nations-winning team of 1998, pointed out that in the last URC final, Munster travelled to Cape Town to beat the Stormers.

“In this competition, travel forms part of the challenge, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” Smith said after his team shocked Munster in their semi-final in Limerick on Saturday.

“We know it will be challenging but we’ve got a plan and we’ll see how we can recover as quickly as possible and get ourselves physically and mentally ready for a massive game.

“We will fly out as soon as we can. We have made plans – flights were kept (half of the Munster squad flew to Johannesburg on Sunday night and the balance joined them on Monday).

The Limerick semi-final was the later of the two games and that gave the Warriors a chance to see some of the Bulls-Leinster game.

“We watched the first half of the Leinster semi-final,” Smith said.

“The Bulls were tenacious and it is going to be a tough challenge. But we didn’t train and work hard all season to come up short in a final. We’re going to give it a full go.”

Smith revealed that his team had a late burst of motivation shortly before kick-off when a promotional graphic popped up on the big screen at Thomond Park. It was an advert for a “Munster vs Bulls” final at the same ground.

Quick-witted Scots in the stadium photographed the blunder and it was spread across social media in no time with the caption: “Why do Glasgow enjoy beating Munster so much?”

An embarrassed Munster official admitted they had prepared the graphic but it was displayed too early because of “human error”.

Smith added: “The rivalry between these teams is big. We knew what was coming and I’m proud we stood up to them. They are the champions and had won 10 games in a row.

“Seeing their ad for a final next week here against the Bulls just added that little extra motivation.”

Smith has been coaching the Warriors since 2022 and his reward for their steady improvement is a final against a Bulls team that he played for between 1998 and 2000.

“I’m hugely grateful for this opportunity,” he said.

“There has been a lot of sacrifice, I have lived away from my family this year and I’m grateful that the boys bought in and have given me something to smile about.”

Smith has built a reputation for being a wily operator. He is known for making key half-time changes as he reads the game.

“You will have noticed that there is always a change after half-time,” he added.

“I look at where the nervousness in the team is and then we come up with a plan to execute in the second half,” he added.

“I am grateful that the boys reacted well to what the coaching staff asked of them when we changed it up against Munster.”

Smith’s men got over the line despite having two periods of being down to 14 men.

“When you are down a player, someone else’s work must be done. You have to work that much harder on defence.

“I always believe that attack puts you in a position to win finals but defence wins them, so it was important for us to front up physically. The belief we created through that allowed us to back it up with some good ball-skill opportunities that were there.”

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