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European Champions Cup Predictions – Semi-finals

Irish and French giants face off against English title chasers in the European Champions Cup semi-finals this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

European Champions Cup

Irish and French giants face off against English title chasers in the European Champions Cup semi-finals this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

And then there were four.

Kicking things off is the clash at Croke Park between Leinster and the Northampton Saints on Saturday, followed by the tussle between Toulouse and Harlequins at Le Stadium on Sunday.

It’s only the sixth time that two English clubs feature in the last four of European club rugby’s elite competition. Only once in such a scenario has one of the England outfits failed to win the tournament, but the Saints and Quins face steep odds away from home.

Leinster v Northampton Saints

Saturday, 4 May – 18:30

Leinster are men on a mission. After succumbing in the last two finals, the Irish side entered the 2023-24 competition with a point to prove and made a massive statement in their 40-13 quarter-final thumping of La Rochelle to end their rivals’ reign.

Leo Cullen has kept his powder dry since then, taking a weakened squad on what turned out to be a fruitless two-match South African tour in the United Rugby Championship as he’s prioritised guiding his team back to the peak of club rugby.

Northampton eased into the final four, blowing away an understrength Bulls team 59-22. The Saints, who sit atop the Premiership standings, have been a force to be reckoned with all season and while they’re coming off a 41-32 away loss to Harlequins, they have the cohesion and confidence to take the fight to their vaunted hosts.

Leinster, though, have long had their number. They’ve won all but one of the 10 meetings between the teams, including fighting back from 22-6 down to claim a 33-22 win in the 2011 final. A fully loaded Leinster have looked damn near unstoppable this season and although the visitors are no lightweights, they don’t possess the necessary punch to stop the title favourites from establishing rhythm.

As a result, four-time champions Leinster’s speed and tireless phase play should prove too much for the Saints to handle.

Prediction: Leinster by 15.

Suggested Bet: Leinster -14.5 at 1.84.

Toulouse v Harlequins

Sunday, 5 May – 16:00

The second semi-final is a proper David versus Goliath battle. Harlequins are the only team in the top four who are yet to taste European top-flight glory whereas Toulouse are the most successful team in the tournament’s history with five titles to their credit.

Quins, however, are daring to dream after triumphing on their previous trip to France, showing plenty of fight and flair to edge Bordeaux 42-41 in a thrilling quarter-final showdown. They’re super-dangerous with ball in hand but it’s on defence where they are vulnerable.

As is the case in the first semi, one team dominate this rivalry with Toulouse having won five of the six meetings (Quins’ lone triumph came in 2011). Back to the present, the visitors’ best bet is to make it an open shootout but even then, they’re set to be outgunned by the best attacking team in the competition, a fact Toulouse underlined with their 64-26 quarter-final annihilation of the Exeter Chiefs.

Add their superiority at the breakdown and the French side are set to storm into the final.

Prediction: Toulouse by 17.

Suggested Bet: Harlequins +19.5 at 1.83.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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