Why rain would, ironically, favour the free-spirited Stormers more in URC showpiece

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Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • Former Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky believes, almost counterintuitively, that the more free-spirited Stormers would benefit more from rain in the URC final.
  • The argument is simple but solid: wet conditions lead to more errors and more scrums, with the Capetonians then boasting the world-class front-row of Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
  • Should the going be easier, Stransky finds it difficult to call a winner.

Conventional wisdom says that rain favours more conservative, percentage-based teams.

That would suggest - at first glance at least - that should Saturday's United Rugby Championship (URC) final be dominated by the elements, Jake White's well-drilled Bulls might have the edge over a more free-spirited Stormers.

Yet, as former Springbok World Cup hero Joel Stransky rightly points out, that could prove to be faulty logic.

"I do think [rain] will suit the Stormers more," he told a URC roundtable discussion this week.

"They have a big front row and a strong bench. As much as we think as backline players we win or lose the game, we don’t - it is won and lost up front.

"I say this with a bit of a caveat, but scrummaging has become such a massive part of the modern game.” 

READ | Focus centres on Cape Town Stadium turf ahead of URC final: 'The best team will adapt'

And when one considers that the hosts possess two of the best props in world rugby - skipper Steven Kitshoff and the wily Frans Malherbe - and come up against a Bulls front-row that is greatly improved but not the proverbial finished product, his argument has merit.

"If it's wet and miserable, you think there will be more errors, and you would fancy the likes of Steven and Frans will have a dominant effect at scrum time," said Stransky.

"The tight phase would be a big thing and then you would have to look at the Stormers."

The picture, predictably, becomes far more muddled if one forecast for the weather clearing up by late afternoon does indeed prove prophetic because then the marked difference between the two sides in terms of their strengths will be more readily on show.

"They are two teams that are quite different in their make-up. I think the Stormers have not just got it quite going for 80 minutes, they seem to have these lapses. I thought they should've beaten Edinburgh much more comfortably than they did in the quarter-final," said Stransky.

"I also thought they were lucky to escape against Ulster twice this season, which is fortunate. But sometimes to get to a final you need a bit of luck.

"The Bulls, on the other hand, have no big names, no real stars that stand up and shine, but the sum of their parts is massive. They have a pack of forwards that at the start of this season we wondered about their ability to scrum, we wondered about their ability to dog it out and provide that physical, confrontation game that the Bulls are famous for.

"But they found a way, they play an exciting game of rugby where they don’t necessarily use that pack of forwards in the traditions of Bulls rugby. They have some players on the outside who can read the game and can finish."

Naturally, Stransky is steadfastly diplomatic when pressed on having to predict a winner.

"To have to predict, you'd be stupid to bet against the Bulls, because they've gone and beaten Leinster away, but it is hard to not pick the home side - the Stormers are just laden with talent and they have a team that rises to the big occasion."

Both teams announce their match squads on Friday for Saturday's kickoff at 19:30. 

 
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