• Why I back Stormers to win and not the Bulls

    Why I back Stormers to win and not the Bulls
    (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

    I have backed the DHL Stormers to win at home against Ulster and the Vodacom Bulls to lose in Dublin against Leinster in the semi-finals of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, writes Mark Keohane.

    Utopia is that somehow the Leinster bus breaks down, a few of their best players hurt their lower backs trying to fix the problem and the Bulls, having been at the ground an earlier than they should be because of outstanding preparation, take the win and head back to Cape Town, South Africa to play their traditional southern rivals the DHL Stormers in the final.

    What a moment it would be: What a final it would be and what an occasion it would be in the URC’s first season. It is what we in South Africa dreamed of in South Africa when Super Rugby launched in 1996, but it took 12 years for it to happen when the Bulls travelled to Durban to play the Sharks in the 2007 final.

    The URC, unlike Super Rugby, speaks to SA Rugby’s strengths on every front and it is why in the first year, three of four SA teams finished in the top five, two are in the semi-finals and the Stormers, as SA Shield winners, host a semi-final in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.

    The Stormers, before they go to bed on Friday night, will know that if they win they host or they travel. Ulster know they go back to Ireland, win or lose, and the only difference is they may have an extra week down south in Ireland in the league.

    The best four teams are in the semi-finals and Leinster have been the best team without really ever playing their best team. What a credit to the squad depth in Dublin.

    The Bulls, given their first half of the season, should not be there, but credit to Jake White, Marcell Coetzee and the boys in blue. The Stormers were one from five, including a beating at home to the Lions. The only team I expected to see there, Ulster, nearly never made it.

    The league has shown the advantage of playing at home and the Stormers have not been beaten at home since they stumbled against the Lions. Leinster just don’t get beaten at home.

    My predictions, in conversation with SA Rugby Magazine editor Zelim Nel, are based on home ground advantage. They have been said with no disrespect to the quality of the Bulls or Ulster.

    Which is why, as the URC evolves as a league, the last four and final have to be played on neutral venue if we really want to know which of the four is actually the best in one-off play-off situations.


    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years