Following an 18-13 victory for the Stormers over the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship final, here’s our five takeaways from the match at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
From financial struggles to URC champions
A year ago, the Stormers were unsure as to whether they would be accepted into the newly-created United Rugby Championship due to the fiscal problems endured by Western Province Rugby. There was huge concern in the region, but they thankfully survived and have duly thrived on the field in 2021/22, winning the South African Shield and finishing second in the overall table before deservedly claiming the title. Head coach John Dobson has done a wonderful job as, although they have some outstanding individuals, it has very much been a collective effort.
First-half dirge gives way to some excitement
There was a very promising start to the game when Harold Vorster surged across the whitewash for the Bulls early on but it descended into a dire clash for the rest of the half. It was perforated by errors as both teams struggled to get any continuity. At half-time it wasn’t exactly looking like the greatest end to what had been an otherwise excellent season, but that changed after the break. All of a sudden, some action broke out, the Stormers in particular started to create chances and it turned into a much more watchable contest.
Bulls fail to make forward dominance last
While it was scrappy in the opening period, the visitors very much had the upper hand. In typical Jake White fashion, the Bulls managed to have a stranglehold on the game, forcing the hosts into mistakes and controlling the forward exchanges. That turned around in the second period, however, and the home team managed to get talented youngster Evan Roos into the match. The Stormers got over the gain line, started to have joy with their maul and, as a result, the visitors began to go into reverse.
Cornal Hendricks’ yellow card proves costly
The score was tied at 10-10 when the centre was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle and with him off the field, the Stormers immediately benefited. They set up a maul and drove towards the line where Andre-Hugo Venter finished off and took the hosts ahead for the first time in the match. It was a significant score and gave Dobson’s men a massive boost heading into the final 25 minutes of the encounter. Although the Bulls handled the rest of Hendricks’ time off the field well, it allowed the Stormers to control the pace of the game. All of a sudden it was the visitors forcing play and making needless errors, which meant the home side dominated territory.
Manie Libbok steps up once again
He missed some kicks last weekend against Ulster but produced when it mattered to nail the decisive conversion and the fly-half came up with similarly clutch moments on Saturday. Libbok was awry with his first effort against the Bulls but managed to kick the one on the stroke of half-time to get his side back into the match. It certainly gave the playmaker a boost as he was impressive after the interval, controlling play nicely and then scoring the key drop-goal with six minutes remaining. It took the Stormers out of three-point range and they duly held out relatively comfortably to claim the title, which a few months ago looked to be a highly improbable achievement.
READ MORE: Stormers edge past Bulls in physical clash to win United Rugby Championship title
The article United Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from the final as Stormers cap remarkable turnaround appeared first on Planetrugby.com.