Stage set for URC final between Stormers and Bulls in Cape Town
It's all systems go for the hugely anticipated and inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC) final between the Stormers and the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (7.30pm).
The Capetonians earned the right to host the Grand Final at home, where a capacity crowd of 31,000 is expected, after finishing as the top-ranked team on the table during the round-robin stages.
In their last matches, the Stormers held their nerve to beat Ulster with Manie Libbok’s successful conversion after the hooter while the Bulls shocked log leaders and tournament favourites Leinster in Dublin.
Neither team is expected to give away an inch in what is expected to be an epic north-south showdown where they will try to use their tough forward packs and classy backlines to outclass one another.
The Stormers won one more game than their Tshwane counterparts this season, but the Bulls will draw confidence from the fact that they scored 54 points more than the opposition in the league stages of the competition.
The Cape side’s defence has been more effective as they conceded 77 fewer points but this will count for little as rugby finals are about inches and the smallest margins will count.
Both sides will enter the match high on confidence as the Stormers have registered victories in their last 10 matches while the Bulls have lost only one of their last 11 fixtures.
Interestingly, that loss by the Bulls was against the Stormers in Cape Town in April.
Stormers flank Deon Fourie will play his 100th game for the team in the historic showpiece, running out ahead of a match-day squad showing two changes from the semifinal, with wing Sergeal Petersen coming in for the injured Leolin Zas, while loose forward Junior Pokomela is included on the replacements bench.
“We are up against our old rivals in a home final, so you can be sure we will be ready to give it everything we have and hopefully make our supporters proud,” said Stormers coach John Dobson.
“Deon embodies a lot of what we pride ourselves in as a team. Playing for the DHL Stormers means a lot to Deon, and it means a lot to the rest of us that he reaches this milestone on such a big occasion.
“Sergeal and Junior have also shown their worth for us this season and both add something different to our squad, so we are looking forward to seeing what they can do on Saturday.”
Bulls director of rugby Jake White has made just one change to his team for the match from the side that beat Irish giants Leinster in Dublin last weekend, with Kurt-Lee Arendse back at fullback and Canan Moodie moving to the wing.
“It’s been an incredible season in our first one participating in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship,” said White.
“We have measured ourselves against some of the best sides and players in the world. So, to be able to play in the final is an incredible feat. I am very proud of the Vodacom Bulls players, coaches and staff for the hard work and role they played in getting this far.
“We are up against a deserving and strong DHL Stormers side that has shown throughout the season how competitive and hungry for success they are. We expect another tough challenge against a team we have not managed to beat this season.”
Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain). Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Nama Xaba, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Sacha Mngomezulu.
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Simphiwe Mantanzima, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 David Kriel.
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (SA), AJ Jacobs (SA)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (SA)
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