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URC Semi-Final: Stormers v Connacht – Key Battles 

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies and examines the key battles of Saturday’s URC semi-final between the Stormers and Connacht in Cape Town.

Stormers Connacht Key Battles 

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies and examines the key head-to-head battles of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship semi-final between the Stormers and Connacht in Cape Town.

Steven Kitshoff v Finlay Bealham

It starts up front as the cliché goes and this is set to be a colossal clash. 

One of the leading looseheads in world rugby, Kitshoff can do it all and then some. The Springbok stalwart’s a scrummaging powerhouse and a heavy-duty pilferer with an impressive engine. 

Though his mere presence lifts his team, the Stormers skipper leads by example, makes good decisions and is a skilled communicator with the referee. 

Bealham’s a beast in his own right. The Australian-born brute has five Test caps for his adopted nation of Ireland and can do the job at loosehead and tighthead. 

He’s had a monstrous season and subsequently finds himself as the apex front-rower on the URC Top 100, coming in at number 16 overall.

Deon Fourie v Shamus Hurley-Langton

A hunt between an old lion and a young lion. 

The breakdown is where Connacht sealed their 15-10 upset over Ulster in Belfast last weekend and Hurley-Langton led the charge with a Man of the Match performance that included two jackals and 19 tackles at a 100% clip. 

The New Zealand-born back-rower is blowing up this season and at 23, he’s a full 13 years younger than his counterpart this weekend. 

Fourie, though, has proven age is just a number in recent years. The evergreen ace became the oldest Springbok debutant of all time last year and hasn’t lost a step this season. Tenacious and tough as nails, he’s the ultimate competitor and elevates the Stormers to another level. 

At the time of writing, the Stormers were confident the veteran ball hawk would recover from the hamstring niggle that saw him replaced early in the second half against the Bulls last weekend to fill the No 6 jumper.

Manie Libbok v Jack Carty

The battle of the boot is ever-important in playoff rugby and both teams have a marksman of note in their midst. 

They’ve been pivotal to their respective team’s success all season and are coming off clutch performances, Libbok stealing the show in the Stormers’ 33-21 win over the Bulls and Carty scoring all 15 of Connacht’s points against Ulster. 

Three-cap Springbok Libbok’s distinctly more dangerous as far as flair is concerned and his return to form off the tee came at the perfect time for the Cape side.

Captain Carty’s a cool head who performs well under pressure and is both the compass and glue of the Irish club, offering direction, leadership and composure. 

Dan du Plessis v Bundee Aki

Panache meets power in this midfield contest. 

Du Plessis is in the form of his life. Blossoming into a big-brained baller, he’s as intelligent as he is skillful, refreshingly so for a South African No 12. 

While he’s adept at breaching the advantage line, he’s not the typical ‘crash test dummy.’ Rather, he plays what’s in front of him and makes the right decision nine times out of 10. 

Aki’s all power. A tank of a man, the New Zealand-born barnstormer brings the pain on both sides of the ball. He might have some difficulties with the nimbleness and speed of Du Plessis but as an Ireland and British & Irish Lions stalwart, he has him beat as far as high-level and high-stakes experience is concerned. 

Seabelo Senatla/Angelo Davids v Mack Hansen

At the time of writing, it was unclear whether Senatla had sufficiently recovered from injuries he suffered in a car accident last Thursday to be up for selection this week. 

Both Senatla and Davids, the latter filling the No 14 jersey in the former’s absence and dotting down against the Bulls, are former Blitzboks with plenty of pace and enterprise. 

However, Senatla has more size and more importantly, is further along in his transition to the 15-man game, which makes him the more dependable option, especially on defence. 

That will be vital as Hansen’s more than a handful on attack. A pint-sized predator, the Irish international has gas for days, dancing feet and a knack for creating something out of nothing and will have to be closely watched.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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