The Stormers can prove a point for Super 12 rugby early next year when they meet one of the strongest provincial teams in the northern hemisphere.
The Cape-based regional side and Munster, a semifinalist in this year’s Heineken Cup competition played in Europe, have both accepted an invitation in principle to play in Dubai on February 4.
There’s been a heated debate for quite a while about which of the Super 12 or Heineken Cup series are the stiffest provincial competition in the world.
Attempts have been made for years to organise a super final between the champions of the two competitions, but they have failed time and again, because the rugby calendar is so full that it’s difficult to find a suitable weekend.
The rugby promoter, Willem Strauss, has now managed to rope in the Stormers to hopefully get an answer.
Strauss told Die Burger: “This is a classic tussle between north and south between the semifinalists of the Heineken Cup and the Super 12 series. This match may even lead to another that could establish which team is the strongest provincial side in the world.”
He said Dubai was the ideal place for such a match, because it’s “neutral, the weather conditions are perfect, the time zones make it attractive for television audiences in both South Africa and Britain and there’s huge numbers of rugby enthusiasts in the United Arab Emirates.”
It’s estimated that about 30 000 South Africans work in the UAE, while about three times that number of Britons are employed there. “We expect at least 10 000 enthusiasts at the Dubai Exiles stadium,” Strauss said.
The proposed match is a sequel to the match played between the Stormers and Bulls earlier this year when about 7 000 supporters watched the Stormers beat the Bulls.
Gert Smal, coach-designate of the Stormers (the coaches of the 2005 four regional teams must still be appointed officially by SA Rugby), says such a match is the ideal preparation for the Super 12 series, which begin two weeks later.
“You play against unknown opposition and you are tested in areas you didn’t expect,” Smal said.
Two Munster players who will keep the Stormers on their toes are the All Black legend, Christian Cullen and the former Wallaby strongman, Jim Williams.
Smal says apart from the Munster game, the Stormers also plan the usual warm-up match against the Bulls.
There will also be a third match either against the Renegades or even the proposed central regional team, who will start playing in 2006.