One of the reasons why DHL Stormers coach John Dobson might have fancied playing Leinster away in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final is that it would have brought what should be one of his team’s biggest weapons more into the game.
The turf at the DHL Stadium, where the Stormers host Munster in the URC Grand Final on 27 May, has always been difficult to scrum on. The field wasn’t laid for rugby, it was aimed at soccer. But it has become worse since the venue was used for Monster Jam in the week that coincided with the Stormers’ last game of the regular season against Benetton.
That was why the Benetton game was played in Stellenbosch and not at the stadium, and there are moves afoot to switch two Currie Cup games scheduled for DHL Stadium to the Danie Craven Stadium. One of them is Friday night’s Western Province clash with the Pumas, and the other is on Friday night the following week. In other words, the night before the final, against the Golden Lions.
Of course, it isn’t just the de-powering of the Stormers' scrum that is a concern, but just the overall tacky and uneven appearance of the field. It is understood the URC would also like the two games to be moved and have put in a request for that to happen so that the showpiece final to their competition can be played on the best possible surface.
“Nothing has been finalised yet and you guys will be informed in due course if it does happen, but something does have to be done to safeguard the field for the final,” said Dobson at a press conference at the start of the fortnight buildup to what should be a riveting decider.
Asked if his team would be looking to use their scrum to get the upper hand against a Munster scrum that creaked a bit against Leinster, Stormers skipper Steven Kitshoff appeared to agree that the field was a stumbling block to any quest to get scrumming dominance due to its slippery nature and the ease with which the turf is torn away when subjected to heavy traffic.
“It is difficult to say, we will have to play the field. We have played a couple of games since Monster Jam and scrumming has been difficult,” said Kitshoff.
Meanwhile, the tickets for the game will go on sale on Thursday, and it appears that although the URC may lose a bit by having the final in Cape Town from a financial point of view because of the exchange rate - you can’t compare the 80 Euros that punters would have paid for an Aviva Stadium final with what Capetonians will fork out when you do the conversion - every effort is being made to make it affordable for loyal Stormers fans to continue to support their team.
Tickets start from just R80 for Category D and range in price up to R375 for Category A seats and will go on sale exclusively from Ticketpro on Thursday at 10am. Clearly an effort is being made to ensure that after two weekends where fans turned out in their droves to the DHL Stadium, there isn’t too much of a further hit on pockets.
As a show of appreciation for the loyalty of season ticket holders, season tickets will be valid for the match, with no further action required.
The stadium has drawn record crowds for the URC over the past two Saturdays, with an estimated crowd of around 45 000 turning up for the Stormers v Bulls quarterfinal and an additional 2000 and a bit more being added on for the semifinal. It is anticipated a sell-out crowd of 57 000 will watch the Stormers attempt to defend the title they won by beating the Bulls last year.
The 2021/2022 final was limited to a 31 000 capacity because of Covid restrictions that were in place at the time. It was felt by people working for the Stormers that the interest was enough to sell out the stadium had those restrictions, which were lifted less than a week later, not still been in place.
Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final ticket prices
Category A: R375
Category B: R275
Category C1: R175
Category C2: R150
Category D: R80