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Stormers Take Home Inaugural URC Title

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Saturday Jun 18, 2022

Cape Town played host to the first ever United Rugby Championship final. The all South African clash between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls was an absolute classic.

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The match had all the hallmarks of a top-level final as the momentum ebbed and flowed with both sides enjoying periods of dominance.

Big Players Stand Up In Big Moments

One player that stood out once again was Stormers number eight Evan Roos. The barnstorming backrow bulldozed his way through the Bulls defence on several occasions and was rewarded with a powerfully taken try that swung the contest in the Stormers favour.

Having already been named in the Springbok squad for their upcoming test series with Wales, many feel as though Roos is both the future and the present for the Bok number eight shirt.

Despite coming up just short, Jake White’s Bulls can hold their head up high. Having started the season on an awful note with a heavy defeat to Leinster in round one, the men from Pretoria have rebounded in incredible fashion.

Their resurgence has seen several of their players recalled into the Bok set-up. Spearheaded by captain Marcell Coetzee who has been quite frankly sensational since joining from Irish side Ulster.

An absolute powerhouse with ball in hand and a physical enforcer at the point of contact, Coetzee faces stiff competition from incumbent Bok captain Siya Kolisi for the number six shirt.

Continuing the theme of backrowers who have impressed, another twenty-two-year-old Elright Louw has been immense for White’s team this season.

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The former junior bok is a physical specimen at 6’5” and 112kg and will be in direct competition with Roos and Leicester Tigers Premiership winner Jasper Wiese for the number eight shirt for the series.

In trying conditions both sides showed ambition to play running rugby with both backlines showing some impressive handling skills.

Perhaps the most impressive back was Stormers inside centre Damien Willemse who at this rate will be pushing Munster’s Damien De Allender for the Bok number twelve shirt.

Whilst his physicality cannot be questioned it is Willemse’s wide range of attacking tools that could bring a new dimension to the South African attack.

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Willemse possess a huge boot as well as a slick passing game that is unlike any of the other centres in the current Springbok set-up.

Coaching Masterclasses Continue

Off the pitch both coaching staffs have to take a bow. Having both had a tumultuous start to the season, John Dobson and Jake White never strayed from the course.

White of course is a World Cup winning coach who appears at home at the Bulls. In some ways it is ironic considering based on his own autobiography, White struggled immensely with several Bulls stalwarts during his time as Springbok coach.

Should he continue to have success with the Bulls next season an international job post the World Cup might not be out of the question, most notable among them will be the English and Irish jobs.

For Dobson the win was built on years of hard graft within the Western Province structures. A notoriously difficult union politically with incredible financial difficulties, the Stormers success truly is remarkable given the off the field issues.

Should he have the ambition to do so, Dobson too could be in line for an international role down the line. By all accounts he is loved by his players and has his side playing perhaps the best brand of rugby in the URC.

An Undoubted Success

Finally, it has to be said that despite the negativity in certain corners, the addition of the South African sides has brought a renewed interest to a league that was struggling.

Had the South African sides not rebounded from their early disappointments and continued to flounder the experiment could’ve been over before it even started.

Instead, the Bulls did the impossible by knocking over European giants Leinster away from home nonetheless whilst the Stormers did their part to ensure the final would take place in South Africa.

What will be interesting next season is just how far they can go when thrown into the big leagues of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

There is no doubt their depth will be tested and perhaps their URC form may dip as they balance their squads, but what is not in doubt is that their addition to European Rugby has added a level intrigue to what had become a stale set-up.

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