Sport

MUNSTER MASH

Stormers wary of ‘nuisance’ O’Mahony and Snyman as Munster aim to crash Cape Town URC party

Stormers wary of ‘nuisance’ O’Mahony and Snyman as Munster aim to crash Cape Town URC party
RG Snyman of Munster during his team's Heineken Champions Cup, round of 16 match against Sharks at Kings Park on 1 April, 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

Munster’s veteran captain Peter O’Mahony and giant lock RG Snyman have caught the attention of Stormers dynamo Deon Fourie as the sides prepare for the URC final.

The sample size of matches between the Stormers and Munster in the United Rugby Championship is small. Just two previous encounters, both won by the Irish side hardly screams “trend” but for the Stormers, it’s time to get one back.

And if you’re of a superstitious inclination, perhaps you’ll take some heart from one common denominator in both those defeats — Stormers flank Deon Fourie didn’t play.

In October 2021, when the Stormers went down 34-18 at Thomond Park in Limerick and last month when Munster surprised the Stormers with a 26-24 win at DHL Stadium, Fourie was on the injured list.

Such is his presence, work rate and ability at the breakdown, he was sorely missed. Would the Stormers have won those previous matches, had he played? It’s moot now. But the reality is that a fully fit Fourie is an asset to the team.

And in particular, Fourie’s breakdown battle with grizzled Ireland veteran and British & Irish Lions Test captain Peter O’Mahony, is worth braving the rain and cold alone.

Peter O’Mahony, captain of Munster

Peter O’Mahony, captain of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match between Sharks and Munster at Kings Park on 22 April, 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

“Peter O’Mahony is a fantastic player, he has been playing for Ireland for a long time, he is amazing,” Fourie said.

“I don’t really see him as an out-and-out fetcher; a guy like Jack Morgan from last year, he was quite good, I think he won the (URC) award for the most turnovers last year.

“But, O’Mahony is just a nuisance at every ruck and sometimes he’ll get that poach, but he’s always just there and in your face and disrupting rucks. So that’ll be a nice challenge, trying to contain him.”

Another nuisance the Stormers will encounter comes in the gigantic form of lock RG Snyman. The Bok made his first Munster start in months against the Stormers the last time they were in Cape Town and he has put their lineout under pressure. He was also against in the loose, where his freaky athletic skills in such a huge frame, were evident.

Fourie has never played against Snyman. But he’ll have a close look at why, had it not been for three injury-riddled years, Snyman might have evolved into an all-time great. 

Now that Snyman’s injury problems are hopefully behind him, he still might fulfil his enormous potential. The Stormers want to delay that journey to professional and possibly personal fulfilment, by one more game at least.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever played against RG … he’s a massive human being and his offload and running game is outstanding,” Fourie said.

“For us to stop that will be a challenge. What he brings to that Munster side is an element of unpredictability.”

Deon Fourie

Deon Fourie of DHL Stormers during the United Rugby Championship match between Stormers and Vodacom Bulls at DHL Stadium on 23 December, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)

Clarity of mind

One of the Stormers’ greatest strengths, perhaps the greatest strength they have, is that there is a clarity of purpose. They understand their game plan and stick to it, even under pressure.

The mindset is one of scoring points and looking for tries. Even though their approach can appear loose, as if they’re making it up on the spot, coach John Dobson and his staff have chosen and moulded players with the right skill sets to play that way. It’s not happened by chance.

Former Stormers and Bok skipper Jean de Villiers believes that it’s this clarity of thinking and collective understanding of their game plan that has brought success. The Stormers won the inaugural URC in 2022 and have a chance to retain the title this weekend. It’s no accident they’re in the final again.

De Villiers never won any silverware with the Stormers despite playing for the team for nine years in total, either side of a stint with Munster in 2010. They lost two Super Rugby semi-finals in 2011 and 2013 with De Villiers in the team and also a Super Rugby final in 2010 when De Villiers was in Ireland.

When the pressure comes on, they (the Stormers) don’t go into their shell. They stick with what has worked for them,” De Villiers said at a media gathering this week.

“I don’t think we (the Stormers teams he played for) ever got that right. “Do we want to play an expansive game or do we want to revert to a more conservative approach? It was always kind of in-between and in pressure situations that is what cost us in those big games.”

Peter O'Mahony, Monster

Peter O’Mahony (centre) of Munster Rugby during the United Rugby Championship match between Sharks and Munster at Kings Park on 22 April, 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Gallo Images)

Good form

De Villiers did warn that Munster come into the final in good form, having won three and drawn one since beating the Stormers on 15 April. And all those results have been achieved away from home.

Munster were thrashed 50-35 by the Sharks in a European Champions Cup game on 1 April, but have trended upwards since then.

They also arrived in South Africa this week with a fully fit squad, which included Snyman, All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa and scrumhalf Conor Murray, who all missed the semi.

“Munster got absolutely blown off the park in Durban in the Champions Cup game, then they came back to South Africa and beat the Stormers in Cape Town, they drew with the Sharks in Durban and obviously beat Glasgow and Leinster in the quarter and semi-final,” De Villiers said.

“They have been on a run where I think from a mental point of view, they are in a place where they must feel extremely strong and extremely positive.

“And that is worth gold. If you’re going into a final, away from home, but you have proven in the last couple of weeks that you can do it.

“There is a difference between thinking you can win a game and knowing you can win a game because you have done it before on different territory.

“And I think that is the attitude Munster will have going into this game. The fact that they have all of those players back is great.

“So, I think Munster have got so much going for them and the fact that they have done it before here in South Africa will give them massive, massive confidence going into this game.” DM

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