The stars have both recovered and are aligning for the protagonists ahead of Saturday’s eagerly awaited sold out bumper Vodacom United Rugby Championship final between the DHL Stormers and Munster in Cape Town.
No sooner had Munster announced they were in the good position of being able to send a full strength squad across the equator for their quest to lift silverware for the first time in 12 years than Stormers assistant coach Rito Hlungwani confirmed the anticipated positive news from the home team’s side too - both Deon Fourie and Marvin Orie will be up for selection.
That duo were missing when the Stormers faced Connacht in the semifinal as coach John Dobson took a calculated gamble in an attempt to safeguard their fitness for the decider.
With Ruben van Heerden switched to No 5 lock and into what for him was the less familiar role of lineout leader, Orie was missed in the win against Connacht.
5?? DAYS TO GO!
It’s South Africa vs Ireland ??????
It’s @TheStormers vs @MunsterRugby ????
It’s time to Rise to Victory ????#UnitedWeRise | Presented by @CityofCT pic.twitter.com/FqHfWeAV2T— Vodacom United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial_RSA) May 22, 2023
And although the abrasive Willie Engelbrecht did his bit as Fourie’s replacement, it is reasonable to suggest that a player of Fourie’s quality and specified role will always be sorely missed when he is not there.
Dobson made it clear after the Connacht game that both players would be back for the final but it should still have been reassuring for Stormers fans that forwards coach Hlungwani answered with such certainty when questions were asked about their fitness during an online press conference on Monday.
“Marvin and Deon were both training today and they have been training with us since last week. They will be available for selection,” said Hlungwani.
When he was pressed on it again, he responded: “They are 100 per cent fit”.
There were no other known injury concerns after the semifinal so barring mishaps during the buildup week the Stormers should be able to put a stronger team into the field in Saturday’s final than they did when they lost by two points to Munster at the same venue in the middle of last month.
What happened when this year’s Grand Finalists last met… ??@TheStormers ?? @MunsterRugby@Vodacom #URC | #UnitedWeRise | #STOvMUN | #Throwback pic.twitter.com/TKt3MKB5BW— Vodacom United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial_RSA) May 18, 2023
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Fourie did not play in that game as he was just two weeks into his rehabilitation from the eye socket injury that also prevented him from playing the Heineken Champions Cup final against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park and he was also unavailable for the last league game against Benetton a week later.
Fourie will be joined in the back row this time by the excellent and influential No 8 Evan Roos, who was only just coming back from a long injury layoff and played off the bench against Munster last time.
The availability of Roos and Fourie means that together with the X-factor skill set of Hacjivah Dayimani the Stormers have their best loose trio available.
Salmaan Moerat is of course out for the rest of the season with the injury that forced him out long term shortly before Christmas, but Van Heerden is a good like for like replacement, so it is really just the unlucky former Blitzbok Seabelo Senatla that is absent from what would have been considered the first choice Stormers starting team at the start of the season.
Senatla was injured in a car accident a few nights before the quarterfinal against the Vodacom Bulls.
But even there the Stormers are well covered, with Angelo Davids, another Blitzbok star with incredible X-factor and potential, coming more and more into his own on the wing with every game he plays. Leolin Zas, the other wing, is now two games into his comeback from his own long injury layoff and will be eager to make up for missing out on last year’s final with an untimely injury.
Munster are also fully loaded as they prepare to fly out to the final after positive updates were given on several players who either went down in the tight semifinal win over Leinster in Dublin or missed that game.
Former Western Province lock Jean Kleyn and Ben Healy left the field during the win over Leinser but are busy completing their return to play protocols this week.
Tongan international Malakai Fekitoa, British and Irish Lions scrumhalf Conor Murray, Calvin Nash and Springbok lock RG Snyman have completed the return to play protocols and are available to feature after missing the semi.
Hooker Diarmuid Barron and flanker Peter O’Mahony were doubtful before the Leinster game but have now been pronounced ready for the final after coming through that game unscathed.
Munster coach Graham Rowntree has included 17 forwards and 13 backs in a 30-man traveling squad, with the match day squad and starting team to be announced on the eve of the match, as will the 23 players and starting team set to do duty for the home team.
??? SQUAD UPDATE | A 30-player Munster travelling squad depart for South Africa today ahead of Saturday's #URC Grand Final against Stormers in Cape Town.
See full details ??#STOvMUN #MunsterInSA ???? #SUAF ??— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) May 22, 2023