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Sunday 28 May 2017

Munster's character can steal the day

Munster v Ulster Live KO 3.0, SS3

Munster’s Rassie Erasmus
Munster’s Rassie Erasmus

Munster will not need reminding by Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus of the necessity for a Top-2 finish.

The introduction of the semi-final play-off system in 2010 has led to fourteen semi-finals, all of which have gone the way of the home club.

This is a statistic that stands out as a reason to go right to the wire.

At present, second-placed Munster hold a seven-point lead over The Ospreys, in third, on the heels of Leinster's victory at The Liberty Stadium last week.

Ulster's need is, arguably, even greater given how they are just outside the Top-4 based on The Scarlets racking up more wins (14-against-13).

There is a chink of light for the Northern Province in the nature of Munster's build up to the Champions Cup semi-final against all-conquering Saracens on Saturday week.

The likelihood is Conor Murray (shoulder), CJ Stander (ankle) and James Cronin (knee) could be joined by concussion victims Donnacha Ryan and Tyler Bleyendaal on the sideline this weekend.

That would remove the spine of their team and leave Munster vulnerable to Ulster.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss has had to endure a spluttering season ahead of the import of Jono Gibbes in the summer.

There has not been enough consistency and too little edge to Ulster's forward game.

The loss of Marcel Coetzee will redouble the burden of responsibility on Iain Henderson and Kieran Treadwell to put them on the front-foot.

When it comes down to character and will-to-win, the smart money is on Munster making the most of playing at Thomond Park.

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