The Munstermen moved up to second in the table ahead of rivals Ulster with a commanding 34-3 win over Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, but the two Irish provinces are separated by points difference with just three rounds remaining.
It’s going to be crucial that we put our best foot forward, because if we slip up we could be out we could be out of the home semi-final hunt.
Simon Zebo on Munster’s last three PRO12 games
Five clubs are still in the hunt for the top four as the PRO12 reaches the business end of the season, but the schedulers have been kind to Anthony Foley’s men with just one of their remaining matches coming against their top five rivals – an away trip to Ulster in round 21 – with two matches at Irish Independent Park in Cork against Benetton Treviso and Newport Gwent Dragons.
After going in at the break against Edinburgh with a 10-3 lead, Munster upped their game in the second half to run in a further four unanswered tries.
Zebo was awarded the crucial fourth try from a kick through into the sizeable in goal area at Murrayfield despite replays appearing to show he didn’t get his fingers to the ball.
And the Ireland international admits that Munster need to be quicker out of the blocks if they are to keep pace with their rivals with the top four all securing bonus-point wins in the last two rounds.
“We just need to focus on starting as fast as we can and getting as many scores as possible,” he said.
“All these games are massive games for us.
“It’s going to be crucial that we put our best foot forward, because if we slip up we could be out we could be out of the home semi-final hunt – that’s the key for us.
“We know how vital it is. Every game you see a lot of bonus-point wins being made by the top four sides, so we just need to keep pushing for the home semi, and focus on every game as it comes.”
Ulster have the biggest task with huge interpro matches against Leinster and Munster at the Kingspan Stadium before a short trip to the west of Scotland to take on Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium on the final day.
It’s something you want to strive for, because playing at Thomond Park – and with the fans – it’s going to be like having an extra player on the pitch.
Simon Zebo on the importance of a home semi-final
It could be all to play for on the final day, with all six matches kicking off at 15:00, if the Warriors slip up in either of their tough away matches to Conancht and the Ospreys.
Steve Tandy’s Ospreys would also fancy their chances of reaching the top two with a match against Cardiff Blues at the Millennium Stadium before hosting the Warriors and ending up in Galway to face Connacht in round 22.
Despite needing to win all three of their matches and hope other results go their way, it would be foolish to write off back-to-back champions Leinster – currently fifth – who finish with an away trip to Edinburgh after hosting Benetton Treviso at the RDS.
After missing out on the final with a 16-15 semi-final defeat at Glasgow Warriors last season, Zebo is well aware of the importance of securing a home semi-final to boost their chances of reaching the final in Belfast on Saturday 30 May.
“It’s something you want to strive for,” Zebo added.
“Because playing at Thomond Park – and with the fans – it’s going to be like having an extra player on the pitch.
“We know how important it is for us, and that’s definitely the target at the moment.”
Glasgow Warriors: Connacht (A), Ospreys (A), Ulster (H)
Munster: Benetton Treviso (H2)*, Ulster (A), Newport Gwent Dragons (H2)*
Ulster: Leinster (H), Munster (H), Glasgow Warriors (A)
Ospreys: Cardiff Blues (N)**, Glasgow Warriors (H), Connacht (A)
Leinster: Ulster (A), Benetton Treviso (H), Edinburgh (A)
* Both matches will be played at Irish Independent Park in Cork
** Judgement Day III at the Millennium Stadium
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