DHL Stormers coach John Dobson and skipper Steven Kitshoff are thrilled to be preparing to host back-to-back Vodacom URC finals in Cape Town.
This opportunity comes after a 43-25 semi-final victory for the defending champions over Connacht in front of a record-breaking crowd at DHL Stadium on Saturday.
Munster’s thrilling 16-15 win over Leinster in Dublin set the stage for a titanic rematch against the Stormers next week, after the Capetonians had their unbeaten 19-game run at the venue ended by the Irish team earlier this season.
With key players Marvin Orie and Deon Fourie returning from injury, the Stormers are bolstered for the monumental clash, and speaking in a media conference on Monday, Dobson told reporters: “It’s two proud unions or clubs with a massive history and tradition, who’ve pulled themselves up and made the final of the URC [for] a great occasion.
“Caught us by surprise but absolutely thrilled that it’s in Cape Town.
“The Leinster-Munster result works in our favour. They had a tough task at the start of the season and fought themselves into Europe [the Champions Cup] and into the final. Any team that goes to win at the Aviva is a good team. It’s going to be a really tough team to break down.”
A video clip capturing the Stormers’ jubilant celebration in their suite at the DHL Stadium after Munster’s victory went viral on social media, as the final was brought back to Cape Town.
Initially planning a trip to Dublin to face the top-seeded Leinster, Dobson admits the unexpected turn of events filled him with anticipation: “We had booked and were going to Dublin this weekend and from a rugby point of view I was looking forward to it because I thought it would be a great experience for the group, going to play Leinster at the Aviva.
“Our mission, like I said, was to make Cape Town smile, and suddenly it was euphoric because we’re sitting in the box that overlooks the stadium and it’s empty and it’s beautiful and all lit up … and suddenly the guys said Munster might win this!
“And the wives and girlfriends realised that their husbands and boyfriends weren’t going to be away for 10 days and we could be playing in front of the Cape Town people again. It was a game we were half watching and then it suddenly became real, that we could play another game at home, another farewell for Kitsie. It was a massive celebration.”
Reflecting on the upcoming match, the Ulster-bound Kitshoff said: “The stars have aligned for us to have another farewell. But it’s all about the rugby over the next two weeks and getting all our stuff in order and understanding what Munster brings.
“I think the emotion will definitely come in afterwards but for now, it’s about getting the alignment of the team and management all 100 percent focused on the game.
“For us, it was about getting over these two [playoffs] hurdles and having a full go at the trophy again and trying to defend it with everything that we’ve got… so it’s pretty special to play a grand final [in Cape Town].”
Having learned valuable lessons from last year’s final, Dobson is confident in their preparation:“We’ve got a massive respect for Munster and it heaps the pressure on us because they’re such a good team and we’re playing at home. Munster are European giants.
“But just to be playing in front of our people … what it’s going to mean for the whole town, the hype … it was something we didn’t expect, to be staying at home. We ran a really good process in the final week [last season]… The whole thing flowed, and that will give a lot of confidence in how to run the week.
“We’re relaxed, have a nice theme and what’s nice is we have a week to get all that admin stuff out the way – obviously the ticketing stuff is already going through the roof and guys are asking for tickets!”
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix