Jean de Villiers says it will be “really difficult” to see a victory for the struggling DHL Stormers against Munster in Limerick on Saturday night.
The Stormers will have the opportunity to avenge a heart-wrenching defeat to Munster in the 2022-23 Vodacom URC Grand Final in Cape Town when they sprint onto Thomond Park this weekend.
But, after two wins from two starts in the Republic which had them sitting atop the URC league table, John Dobson’s charges have dropped to ninth on the table after going down to Benetton in Italy in round 4 following a loss at Glasgow Warriors eight days earlier.
Speaking during a URC round table with former Munster and Ireland loose forward Alan Quinlan on Wednesday, De Villiers believes the Stormers are feeling the effects of a gruelling four-week European tour and the absence of several key players.
“As we’ve seen with this competition, it’s really hard to get victories away from home, especially if you’re travelling to or from South Africa and the Stormers have found that to be particularly hard this year,” the former Bok and Stormers skipper said.
“The losses of Steven Kitshoff [to Ulster], Salmaan Moerat [injured] and a couple of others has really neutralised the strengths of the Stormers, which was the set phases, scrum-wise and from a lineout point of view, Marvin Orie [to Perpignan] is another one that’s left the union.
“So they’ve found it tough and the experience they’re lacking with their Boks not being back yet makes it difficult for them to get victories. So Thomond Park and playing Munster at home is a tough task for any team.
“Not that Munster has been playing brilliant rugby, they’ve been pretty, I suppose you could call it average in a way but they’ve managed to get a couple of wins and I think just in terms of where these two teams are at, it will be really difficult to see a Stormers victory.”
Quinlan added: “Munster are under a fair bit of pressure. It’s a tough place to go [Thomond Park] but Munster are in a bit of a precarious position at the moment because they’re feeding back in a couple of internationals, they have a couple of injuries and they will have been really disappointed for the way they played against Ulster on Friday night for the vast majority of that game.
“They started the game really well, first 20 minutes, 14-3 up, and then didn’t really fire a shot until the last five minutes of the game. They were absorbing a lot of pressure from Ulster, their set piece malfunctioned, their breakdown was poor, their attack was really poor and that’s something that actually put them in a position to win the trophy last year, the way they attacked and played as a whole.
“You get that in rugby, It’s very early season for all the teams, there’s a bit of rust and the bedding in of players but no better place than to go back home to try and get a result.
“It does bring a bit of added pressure for sure and the Stormers are going to be very physical and if Munster are going to be second best in the physical stakes they’ll be under pressure. I’d be really disappointed if they didn’t improve dramatically this week.”
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