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Friday, February 23, 2024

DHL Stormers eye back-to-back Vodacom URC titles


The DHL Stormers will channel all their energy into Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship decider with the hope of winning back-to-back titles when they host Irish giants, Munster, in the Grand Final in Cape Town.

The spectacle, which will be hosted at DHL Stadium for the second season in a row, will kick off at 18h30 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

The DHL Stormers will enter the match as favourites with home ground advantage and a fantastic home win record giving them a mental edge, but they will be mindful of the fact that Munster registered confidence-boosting away wins in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively – the latter being against tournament favourites Leinster in Dublin a fortnight ago – to earn their ticket to Cape Town for the Grand Final.

The DHL Stormers won 12 of their 18 pool matches, to Munster’s 10, and while they will look to build on their superior attacking display which has seen them score 607 points to the visitors’ 500 this season, it could prove to be an epic battle as the Irish team boast a better defensive record by 60 points and they won both encounters between the sides in the competition up to now.

Munster will also draw confidence from the fact that they were the only team to defeat the DHL Stormers at home in 11 outings this season, with the Irish side edging a tense match by 26-24 just over a month ago. That defeat was one of only two home losses for the Capetonians in the last two seasons.

Bolstering the visitors’ confidence, their victory against the DHL Stormers was followed up by a 22-22 draw against the Cell C Sharks in Durban in their final league match, which means they will enter the Grand final on a four-match unbeaten run.

Fueling their motivation, Munster have only won twice in seven appearances in the competition’s Grand Final – in 2003 and 2011 – a track record they will be desperate to change, especially after bouncing back from defeats in their opening four away games to remain unbeaten on the road since.

DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson has included Springbok forwards Marvin Orie (lock) and Deon Fourie (flanker) in his starting team after both missed out on the semi-final a fortnight ago.

The backline that started in the semi-final against Connacht is unchanged, with Clayton Blommetjies on the bench in place of the injured Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Fourie and Orie’s return means that Joseph Dweba (hooker) and Ruben van Heerden (lock) are the only starting forwards that did not feature in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final at DHL Stadium last season.

“Both Deon and Marvin have been outstanding for us this season and they will add a lot both in terms of their ability and leadership on Saturday,” said Dobson.

“We have a lot of respect for Munster, the truth is that we have never beaten them, so while we are thrilled to be playing at home we know it will be a big challenge against a good team.

"This will be the biggest crowd for any DHL Stormers match and it should be an amazing occasion for the team, our passionate supporters and the city of Cape Town. We are so grateful for the support that we enjoy and what this team means to so many people. We will do our best to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy every moment and play the kind of rugby that got us here.”

In the event of the scores being level after 80 minutes, extra-time consisting of two periods of 10 minutes each will be played, and if the scores are still tied after extra-time, the team that has scored the most tries in the match will be deemed the winner.

Should the teams still be tied on points and tries at the end of extra-time then the winner will be determined by a place-kick competition in which each team will nominate three goal kickers who will take six place kicks between them from different positions along the 22m and 10m lines.

The team with the most successful place-kicks will be the winner. If the teams are still tied at the end of their six kicks, then sudden death will apply.

Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final Teams:

DHL Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Angelo Davids, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain). Replacements: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ben-Jason Dixon, 20 Willie Engelbrecht, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Clayton Blommetjies.

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Jeremy Loughman. Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Keith Earls.

Match information: DHL Stormers v Munster
Date: Saturday, 27 May
Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town
SA Time: 18h30
Referee: Andrea Piardi
TV: SuperSport

[Submitted by Kevin Rademeyer]

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Kevin Rademeyer

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