The Vodacom United Rugby Championship, in its first year, will be won by a South African team in Cape Town. That is just WILD, writes Mark Keohane.
Friday night’s experience, through a television screen, was epic in how the Vodacom Bulls tamed one of Europe’s great teams, Leinster, in Dublin to make the final.
But being at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday was next level.
Please Alan Winde, Premier to the Western Cape, make sure that somehow common sense prevails and the stadium is filled to capacity for Saturday’s URC final between South Africa’s two best and oldest rugby rivals.
There was a touch over 30 000 at the DHL Stadium on Saturday afternoon to experience the DHL Stormers’ dramatic last-minute 17-15 win against Ulster.
It made for a riveting Stadium experience and, with the Stormers trailing by five and one minute to play, all I kept thinking was Cape Town and South Africa needs this final in a week. With no disrespect to Ulster, this is not a final that must be played in Belfast.
This was a bit like the 1995 World Cup final. There was something bigger at play.
Somehow the Stormers conjured up the magical moment, as they have done so often this season and flyhalf Manie Libbok kicked the biggest conversion of his career.
Libbok had been awful all match but no one cared because in his biggest moment he delivered his biggest kick.
Ulster will feel for a second time this season they left Cape Town losers when they should have been winners. The Stormers will feel aggrieved at the shocking officiating of the match officials.
The opinions will be varied and they would not be inaccurate.
If the Bulls were outstanding in beating Leinster, then the Stormers were quite the opposite in getting over the line against Ulster.
The Stormers pack, led by loosehead prop and captain Steven Kitshoff, were quality but the Stormers backline, with the exception of the sublime Damian Willemse, were the opposite.
If the Stormers pack was all about calm, the backs were all about chaos.
Ulster are a very good team. We have always known that, so it would take something magical to finally beat them.
The Stormers, as with the league encounter, were stunning in the opening 15 minutes, and then Ulster settled and controlled most of the match. The hosts had chances to add several three pointers in the last 20 but on five occasions opted to kick to the corner, set the line out or take the scrum. It never ended well … and then it did.
The Stormers scored in the 82nd minute, with time up and with no TMO replay possible.
‘We are going to extra time!’ screamed the bloke next to me.
He had no faith in Libbok’s final conversion.
Fortunately, Manie provided the mania in what would be the most important goal kick in South African rugby’s franchise history.
South Africa has two teams in the URC final and Manie Libbok’s final kick will always be a history maker.
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) June 11, 2022