Munster coach Graham Rowntree has sprung a surprise by not including Springbok lock RG Snyman in his starting team for Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town.
There are three personnel changes and one positional switch to the side that won away to Leinster in the semifinal, but the return of Snyman, who was hugely influential as a starter in the 26-24 win Munster scored here at the DHL Stadium in mid-April, is not one of them. Instead the South African behemoth will be playing off the bench.
“RG is a world class player and Tadgh Beirne was exceptional in the semifinal and deserves another crack in the final,” said Rowntree after announcing his team.
“Not many teams can bring an RG Snyman off the bench, a player of his stature. It is a bomb squad type of selection. It is a challenge when everyone is fit and available and had to leave out some guys who did really well in the semifinal.”
Indeed, Snyman was a core member of the Bok replacement bench that introduced the term Bomb Squad to the rugby lexicon at the last World Cup, and he will be charged with replicating that role in this final.
That is not to say though that Munster haven’t strengthened their starting unit since the Leinster game, with the experienced trio of Conor Murray, Malakai Fekitoa and Calvin Nash returning to the side after completing their return to play protocols following the concussions they suffered in the quarterfinal against Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun Stadium.
All the changes are at the back, with Jack Crowley, who kicked the winning drop-goal against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium to set up the Cape Town final, moving from inside centre to flyhalf. That enables Tongan star Malakai Fekitoa to slot back into the No 12 jersey as midfield partner to Antoine Frisch, while Nash comes in on the wing and joins fullback Mike Haley and the powerfully built winger Shane Daly in the back three.
The last time Munster were in Cape Town they inflicted the first defeat the Stormers had suffered since 2021 on their home field and Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony believes that experience will be helpful.
“Obviously it’s a different game now but it does give you confidence and confidence is important,” said the Munster flanker.
“It’s hugely important for us to take the next step (by winning the trophy), but it’s not about the performance tomorrow. A big performance needs to be put in to beat a team like the Stormers and we aim to do that. For both teams this game means a huge amount.”
Rowntree added that the team had become hardened through the adversity they have faced in the tough run-in to this point, with two away wins in the playoff phase following a successful tour to South Africa at the end of the league stage.
“I think we have had a lot of adversarial growth and we’ve beaten Glasgow away and Leinster away, we deserve to be here,” said the coach.
Munster team: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Shane Daly; Jack Crowley, Conor Murray; Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett, Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn, Stephen Archer, Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, RG Snyman, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Keith Earls.