Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi says his side's shortened pre-season campaign will be a challenge they have to overcome when they face the in-form Vodacom Bulls this Saturday.

The defending champions get the new United Rugby Championship season underway this Saturday against a Bulls side that should in theory be in peak physical condition, having started their season in March with the Rainbow Cup, followed by the Currie Cup, where they claimed a second consecutive title.

Leinster, meanwhile, have had to settle for just one pre-season game to get themselves primed for what South Africa's finest have to throw at them, with 27 members of their squad getting game-time in the recent 40-21 friendly win against Harlequins at the Aviva Stadium.

Contepomi conceded that the lack of match practice his players have been exposed to may be a factor when the sides lock horns in Dublin this Saturday, but added that the coaching staff have taken steps to address any potential rustiness.

"I wouldn't call it 'danger', it’s more like it’s the big challenge," he told reporters at Leinster's Monday afternoon briefing.

"Not only have they (the Bulls) won the last Currie Cup, they have won the last two Currie Cups, so they are definitely the team in-form in South Africa, and definitely a very solid and good team.

"I think it’s a big challenge for us. We always try to prepare the best way we can, and that’s what we had and what we planned, and we knew beforehand we were going to have only one proper pre-season game, so we tried to manage it ourselves and try to get a bit more physicality in our training sessions beforehand, but now we are in a normal rugby week, so we are preparing as we normally do.

"When you see you are going to play against a team that is in-form and is coming from a very successful period like the Currie Cup, you would like maybe to have a few more games under your belt, but that’s what it is," he added.

In some good news for Leinster Dan Leavy, Andrew Porter and Garry Ringrose are all available for selection this week having returned to full training following injury.


Given their recent history, the Bulls look set to carry the largest pressure of the four South African sides entering the inaugural URC.

The previous South African experiment with the Cheetahs and Southern Kings was never embraced by fans, with the Kings becoming the whipping boys of the league, and the Cheetahs flittering between formidable in the Bloemfontein altitude, and barely competitive when they toured Europe.

The natural fear is that the Super Rugby sides will simply follow the same path laid out by the former Pro14 teams, but Contepomi does not believe the Bulls will suffer the same away-day blues.

Arno Botha and Marcell Coetzee (lifting the Currie Cup) have plenty of experience of the old Pro14

Pointing to their head coach Jake White, as well as the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Arno Botha, Bismarck du Plessis and Johan Goosen, Contepomi says the Bulls will be well versed in how to approach European rugby.

"I would be expecting a lot of what Jake White did, and you can see he brought into the squad a lot of South African players that played in Europe before, so they will be more comfortable in coming to this part of the world, so I wouldn’t say they will be that easy on the road," he said.

"I think they will be a tough team on the road.

"To start with, they bring another style of rugby to the competition, and that's great, not only for players, but also for coaches. It's a great challenge for us.

"People underestimate the quality of these competitions sometimes. When you play in the Top 14 or the Premiership you see more or less the same traits throughout the competition, the teams more or less do the same things.

"Here in the United Rugby Championship you play against teams from different countries, they bring their own style by themselves, and the South African teams will add a different dimension to that."