The United Rugby Championship final is upon us and it is all to play for down in Cape Town as the DHL Stormers play host to the Vodacom Bulls. Only 80 minutes remain before one of these sides will etch their name into the history books as the first ever winner of the URC. With 31 000 tickets sold, the stadium is going to be electric and even if it rains tonight, fans are in for a treat.
The Stormers are coming off of a hard fought victory over Ulster in the semi-finals, thanks to a late (84') conversion from points scoring ace, Manie Libbok. The Stormers were uncharacteristically off beat on the evening as a whole, but that may just prove to be a blessing for the side. Big performances from the likes of Evan Roos and Damian Willemse kept them in the contest until late, allowing them to get over for the win when the chance arrived
The Stormers will have to do with out their flying winger though as Leolin Zas has been ruled out through injury and replaced by Sergeal Peterson. Deon Fourie is set to make is 100th appearance for the Stormers and his ability to interrupt the Bulls power at the break down will be vital on the night. They will be buoyed by a large crowd and the fact that they haven't lost at home this year.
The rain may just favor the Stormers who have some more experienced and sizeable customers in jerseys 1-9 if the game becomes an arm wrestle. If Libbok has shaken off the rust from the semi-final, he also has all the right attributes to keep his side on the front foot throughout the contest. I think the Stormers will likely hold the lead at half time and should they keep their discipline in the second half and manage to interrupt the Bulls lineout and maul, John Dobson could become the franchises most successful coach.
The Bulls are an entirely different kettle of fish. They were the under dogs in a big way last weekend at the RDS arena and put together a herculean effort to knock Leinster out of contention for the first time in 5 years. Marcell Coetzee and his forward pack managed to draw the Irish side into a slog fest and there was only ever going to be one winner there. The Bulls are in a fortunate position to have no new injuries and have named an unchanged team for the final, scaringly so, that includes Morne Steyn on the bench who just may be called upon to end another teams dreams.
The Bulls scrum has gone through patches this season and it will be their most crucial area to get right on the night. They will be up against two World Cup winners in Kitshoff and Malherbe so their work will be cut out for them. If the Bulls are able to establish dominance up front, drawing Evan Roos into the rucks and keeping Deon Fourie out, they will take this contest. Momentum is heavily on their side at this point, but one can't forget the story of England in 2019 either.
My money is on the Bulls to edge this one and if the rain pours as expected, Steyn is likely to be inserted earlier in the game to keep the Stormers pinned in their half. Morne could just prove the difference here in an otherwise extremely tight contest. The Stormers may have won the last two, but none of that matters once the whistle blows.