Mighty Munster the measurement for Dobson's DHL Stormers

Mighty Munster the measurement for Dobson's DHL Stormers

The DHL Stormers can look to Munster’s incredible journey to the 2022-23 BKT URC title for inspiration as they embark on a trip to Glasgow looking to win a first play-off on the road.

It’s fight week as the contenders for 2023-24 BKT URC title weigh in for the first round of the play-offs where the DHL Stormers will begin their most challenging play-off run yet, beginning with a quarter-final bout against Glasgow Warriors on Saturday night.

The clash at Scotstoun Stadium will be a first BKT URC away quarter-final for the DHL Stormers, who have enjoyed a home run at DHL Stadium through the play-offs over the past two seasons.

Stepping away from home comforts may come with some trepidation for John Dobson’s side, who have experienced their fair share of struggles on tour in the championship.

However, the DHL Stormers need only look to last season’s Grand Final nemesis, Munster, as proof that the gravel road can lead to a pot of gold.

Missing a host of key players, Munster started the 2022-23 season with four losses on the road, a run that included a surprise defeat to Wales' Dragons and a derby loss to rivals Leinster.

However, boosted by a mid-season friendly victory against a South Africa XV in Cork in November 2022, Munster set about achieving the remarkable.

Starting with a 38-17 victory in Edinburgh, Graham Rowntree’s charges went on a run of eight successive away wins, along the way becoming the first northern hemisphere team to win at DHL Stadium in the penultimate round of the tournament, repeating the feat in a nail-biting grand final in Cape Town.

Similarly, the DHL Stormers have battled on the road this season. A run of four defeats from four games, including a 20-9 loss in Glasgow, on their season-opening tour in November put Dobson’s side up against it from the off.

The Investec Champions Cup allowed the DHL Stormers to rebuild some confidence, as an overhauled matchday squad pushed a star-studded Leicester Tigers to the brink, before the Capetonians shrugged off ice-cold conditions to beat Top 14 challengers Stade Francais in Paris.

However, the DHL Stormers really grew in their belief when they ran in seven tries to beat Northampton Saints in an entertaining exhibition at Franklin’s Gardens. Building on that victory, they claimed a crucial nine log points from their most recent mini-tour against Dragons RFC and Connacht, sealing a place in the play-offs by doing so.

“We are taking some confidence from how we have fought our way here,” Dobson said.

“Those two wins against Dragons and Connacht, we did well at Leicester and in Paris against Stade, as well as the friendly at Northampton. So there is confidence about that.

“Saying that we have to be honest and admit that Connacht and Dragons aren’t in the URC play-offs and Glasgow have been close to topping the table throughout this season. So it’s going to need a step up from us.

“But just the fact that being away and playing on a 4G pitch aren’t factors for us anymore, is good. We are feeling much more confident.

“There’s another factor, which is something the northern hemisphere teams experience when they come down here. There’s a big difference between playing Glasgow in the middle of January and the middle of June. That’s something that will give us a bit more confidence.”

Dobson sees the opportunity in travelling for a play-off and says that having to claw their way up the table has made the squad feel like they deserve to be part of it.

“If we look at the project and where we were, we are quite pleased to be in the play-offs and stay in the Champions Cup next season,” Dobson said.

“We would love to play at DHL Stadium, but for this team to really progress and become what we want to, we have to win these games on the road.

“In a funny way, I am welcoming it. It’s good for us. Ironically, we’ve gone 12 from 18 in all three years. Our win ratio is exactly the same.

“Since we got back from that early season tour, I said to the team, it feels like we have had a knife to our throat for a large part of the season. That adds pressure. The fact that we punched through that to finish fifth is good.

“It feels like there is an opportunity here, rather than a threat. I don’t feel like we are under massive pressure. We are excited about going overseas for a few weeks.”

The DHL Stormers’ play-off journey is set to be a test of their resilience and ability to thrive under pressure. Emulating Munster’s run to glory will not be easy, but with their recent performances, the Cape contenders have shown they are capable of rising to the occasion and bringing the fight when it matters most.


Latest News