Stormers v Munster: Five key head-to-heads to watch in the URC Grand Final

Dylan Coetzee

United Rugby Championship (URC) holders the Stormers will host their second consecutive Grand Final at DHL Stadium in Cape Town, only this time it will be slightly different to the last.

For one this season, red-hot Munster have made the trip down after spoiling Glasgow and Leinster’s parties in the earlier knockout rounds. Secondly, last season’s crowd was limited to 50% capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions but this time round it is a sell-out and the 55,000 strong attendance will be the most at a Stormers match in their entire history.

With that being said there is much to unpack. Munster’s away form has been sparkling, including ending the Stormers‘ unbeaten run at home in round 17, whilst the hosts underlined their class against Connacht in their semi-final.

There are critical battles all over the park in the URC Grand Final and Planet Rugby takes a closer look at the key head-to-heads to keep an eye on.

Deon Fourie v Peter O’Mahony

This will be a proper battle between two veterans of the game who through their skill-sets and leadership qualities will have a telling influence on Saturday’s result.

Fourie is an out-and-out fetcher, a star who lives for the jackal and one who is right up there with the best in the world at it. In just 10 URC games he has made an outrageous 16 turnovers, many of which come at crucial moments with the champions defending for their life on their line.

His game is paramount to balancing the Stormers’ loose trio and the pack’s trust in his abilities makes the Capetonians a different beast when he is on the field. The breakdown will be one of the areas where the game will be won or lost and the experienced campaigner will be wise to that.

Meanwhile, O’Mahony will be one of the chief disruptors for Fourie. Often described as a nuisance, the Irishman will relish being in the faces of the South Africans and throwing his trademark chirps to warm the blood.

He is a quality, quality player. O’Mahony may not be as oriented to fetching as Fourie but is still accomplished at the breakdown whilst mastering the line-out – another key component of the game on Saturday. He has nine line-out steals, the second most in the URC and will be looking to disrupt as much as possible.

Marvin Orie v RG Snyman

This second-row match-up is intriguing as it brings the line-out battle into play, which will be imperative in Cape Town.

In the semi-final without Orie, the Stormers set-piece clearly suffered. That is the Springbok’s bread and butter. For most of the season he has run the line-out with aplomb and forwards coach Rito Hlungwani will be pleased to have him back for the big clash. He has won the second most line-outs in the competition with 82 in 15 appearances. Orie does not offer the same physicality as Snyman but he will be focused on running the set-piece smoothly and defending hard.

It has been such a pleasure to see Snyman back on a rugby field. The last time these sides met the Springbok was massive for Munster. He stopped the Stormers’ strong maul several times with his nous in the line-out and maul structure itself. Outside of that, he is a beast with ball in hand, throwing his gargantuan frame at defenders whilst freeing his arms in the tackle to play teammates in. Snyman being fit and ready to play is a monstrous boost.

Joseph Dweba v Diarmuid Barron

The hooker match-up was made that much more interesting by Dweba’s choice words in a video celebrating Munster’s win over Leinster.

Most of the criticism around Dweba’s game is usually around his line-out throwing, which at 83% maybe is not as high as one would want for a Test hooker but it is not much worse than Barron’s 84%. Ultimately the Stormer needs to keep it clean in the line-out as he is a great scrummager and physical on both defence and attack. The hooker is a player who is looking to be a more established Test star and he needs a big performance to show that.

Barron has been solid for Munster throughout the season, carrying hard and making most of his tackles. Just like Dweba, he will need to be accurate with his line-out throwing. It will also be a big test of his scrummaging ability against a strong Stormers front-row although the poor quality of the pitch will influence that battle.

Ruhan Nel v Antoine Frisch

Outside centre is one of the most important positions on the field particularly on defence, which is why the battle at 13 is between two great rugby minds.

Nel is Mr Consistent for the Stormers; every time he plays he will empty his tank by relentlessly running support lines, carrying the ball well in transition in the outside channels and marshalling the defence. His knowledge of the Stormers’ defensive structure makes him a very valuable player for the final. With the rush defence used by the Capetonians, a lot of key decision-making falls on Nel and the wings with the centre tasked with trying to keep it all connected. A big game is required from the former sevens superstar.

Frisch on the other hand has been a revelation for Munster since joining the club and like his opposite number is a great reader of the game. He is arguably the more dynamic of the two and can produce moments of magic on attack. It will be a tough task for the centre who will have a lot to consider if the Stormers unleash their electric backline, but he has the quality to stand up to the challenge.

Manie Libbok v Ben Healy/Jack Crowley

Rugby union has many moving parts and someone has to find a way to line them all up to produce effective output, more often than not that is a fly-half’s role and in a crunch final the importance of the pivot is elevated.

Libbok has been given a boatload of praise and attention in the build-up to the final and rightly so. He is the top points scorer for a second season, adding more tries to his game this campaign, whilst keeping his playmaking prowess that has notched up a competition high 12 try assists. The Springbok genuinely has the ability to take any game by the scruff of the neck and dominate it. The Stormers will be looking for another blockbuster effort from their golden boy.

It will be interesting to see who Munster go with at 10 given the return from injury of Malakai Fekitoa. Fortunately for Graham Rowntree, he has two good options in Healy and Crowley. Both are super rugby players with excellent game management and kicking ability. One feels Healy’s impact off the bench may be more useful, with semi-final hero Crowley more adept at starting this one. Whichever way Munster goes the primary task is to match and nullify the trickster Libbok’s influence on the game. Clever kicking, territory control and expert game management is critical if Munster are to down the champions in Cape Town.

READ MORE: Munster lay plans to shut down ‘special’ Manie Libbok in URC Grand Final