Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies and examines the key head-to-head battles of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship final between the Stormers and Munster in Cape Town.
Marvin Orie v RG Snyman
A tussle of towering pillars with Springbok implications, both leviathans are back from injuries that kept them out of the semi-finals and set to play a key role in the lineout.
Orie is the more traditional lineout general, a seasoned shot caller and an athletic jumper. As impressive if not more so is his work rate in general play. What he lacks in physicality he makes up for with loose forward-like output, especially on defence.
Viking-esque Snyman has a harder edge than Orie. What sets him apart from any other lock in world rugby is his outrageous offloading ability. One-of-a-kind, he brings an added dimension to Munster that allows them to strike through the tighter channels.
Orie has occupied the spot left by the injury-plagued Snyman in the Springbok set up and with the World Cup fast approaching, the latter will look to remind the national selectors that he’s the better man.
Deon Fourie v Peter O’Mahony
More than a clash of skills, this is a battle of wills, a collision of veteran warhorses who inspire their teammates with their fighting spirit – a selfless, unrelenting drive to scratch and claw for every inch.
Fourie is like a honey badger, tough, fearless and ferocious. He’s willing to run through burning buildings to extract the ball from the clutches of the opposition and is one of the best ball hawks in the competition, despite being the oldest. Fit and ready to go after missing the semi-final triumph over Connacht through injury, expect him to fly out of the tunnel like a bat out of hell.
O’Mahony relishes physical confrontation. Munster’s captain is a general who gets his hands dirty (within the laws), a man of action who takes up his position on the front line and leads by example. He’ll be in the Stormers’ faces all night.
Herschel Jantjies v Conor Murray
A young talent who’s rediscovered form against a decorated veteran.
Jantjies had a rough 2022 season but has regained his confidence this year. He has a spring in his step again, asks questions around the fringes and helps drive the Stormers with snappy service and effective tactical kicking. This is a big opportunity for him to show the Springbok coaches why he should stay in the mix.
Murray’s a cool customer, a smooth operator who knows his game like the back of his hand and how to manoeuvre Munster like a skilled sailor. Once the best scrumhalf in the world, the 34-year-old’s past his prime but remains a class act whose vast experience and tactical nous are invaluable.
Manie Libbok v Jack Crowley
Playmakers with hopes and the potential to become the future at flyhalf for South Africa and Ireland respectively engage in a high-stakes shootout in the Cape Town cauldron.
Both made their international bows last year and are hungry for more Test rugby. Guiding their team to glory this weekend will significantly bolster their international futures.
Like his Man of the Match performances in the quarter and semi-finals attest, when Libbok fires, the Stormers fire. The journeyman-turned-shining star pulls the strings unlike any other South African flyhalf, operating with breath-taking flair and game-changing vision.
Fundamentally sound and ambidextrous, the Fans’ Player of the Season’s proven his big-match temperament anew in recent weeks and envisions making his biggest Springbok statement yet on Saturday.
At 23, Crowley may well be Irish rugby’s next big thing. He showed composure beyond his years by stepping up and slotting the match-winning drop goal against Leinster in the Dublin semi-final and is a classic No 10 (able to cover 12 like he did last time out) with new school skills.
Dan du Plessis v Malakai Fekitoa
The form inside centre of South African rugby’s on a collision course with a Tongan-born, World Cup-winning ex-All Black.
Du Plessis has been a revelation this season, gliding into gaps like a drift car driver. Though he’s proven himself willing and able to race down route one and crash over the advantage line with solid horsepower, his agility makes him a slippery and unpredictable customer.
Fekitoa is a vessel of explosive power, a shoulder-dropping bulldozer who loves to assert dominance over his opposite number. Not just brawn, once the brutaliser has breached the gain line, he activates his silky smooth hands to continue continuity and will go big in his Munster swansong.