The second of the United Rugby Championship semi-finals kicks off this afternoon as the DHL Stormers host Ulster at the Cape Town Stadium, kick off is at 15:00 if you're watching in South Africa. Both sides will be vying to join the Bulls in the final next week to claim the first ever URC Trophy. Todays fixture on paper is a much more even battle than that of the game between Leinster and the Bulls, and really either side could take this one with a moment of magic.
Ulster go into the fixture buoyed by their commanding win over fellow Irishmen Munster in the quarter-finals 36-17, giving departing Munster coach, Johan van Graan no reason to celebrate on his departure. The Ulster men will similarly be hoping to spoil another South Africans party as they make the trip down to Cape Town. Ulster's attack was the point of difference in their game against Munster and their ability to quickly transition from absorbing pressure on defense, to a potent attack is going to be a challenge for the Stormers.
The Ulster side boasts former Stormers and current Bok 8th man, Duane Vermeulen and you can be sure he will have been chatting to his side during the week about what will be required of them if they are to taste victory in Cape Town this weekend. I also thought scrumhalf John Cooney was sublime last weekend and his ability with ball in hand as well as his solid distribution from the base will constantly put the Stormers under pressure around the fringes and out wide.
The Stormers are also going into this fixture with a large amount of confidence and form. They have had a stellar season at home in 2022, having not lost a single fixture to date. They will be hoping that trend continues into this crucial play-off game. Initially struggling to get going against Edinburgh in the quarters. the Stormers found their feet in the second half with players like Evan Roos and Warrick Galant putting their hands up when it was most needed. Momentum is certainly on their side, so maintaining focus and accuracy with ball in hand will be priority number 1 here.
The Stormers were boosted by the news that Springbok player Damian Willemse will be available to face Ulster, helping them overcome what was starting to look like an injury crisis in the midfield. The Stormers team is littered with attacking threats throughout their backline and they're all nicely tied together by in form fullback Warrick Gelant. The forward battle is where this game will be won or lost for the Stormers and many eyes will be on the battle between young 8th man Evan Roos and Duane Thor Vermeulen as the teams battle for ascendancy up front.
If you have any doubt about how tight this game is likely to be, Ulster finished 3rd overall, only 1 place behind the Stormers. Both sided garnered 12 wins in the regular season and a mere 2 points separated them on the log. This is going to be a titanic battle and the fact that the opportunity exists for an all South African final should the Stormers win, this is a must watch.
Steven Kitshoff (c)
Ernst van Rhyn
Ian Henderson (c)
Date: Saturday, June 11
Venue: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 UK & Ireland time; 13.00 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)