Heineken Cup semifinalists Munster are to meet South African Super 12 semifinalist the Investec Stormers in a unique ‘north v south’ clash in Dubai on 4 February 2005.
The match, billed as ‘The Duel in the Desert’, is being staged by the Arabian Gulf RFU.
The match follows the successful hosting earlier this year of a Super 12 warm-up match between South African sides the Bulls and the Investec Stormers at the same venue. Officials are now looking forward to a game which brings together star-studded representative teams from the two rival hemispheres.
Munster’s international-packed squad features players such as All Black legend Christian Cullen and former Australian No 8 Jim Williams, while the Stormers are able to call on a host of Springboks, including SA player of the year Schalk Burger and SA Super 12 player of the year De Wet Barry.
“The trip forms a very important part of our preparation for the gruelling Vodacom Super 12 season. In addition it affords us the ability to grow and build our brand status internationally. From a spectator and sponsor viewpoint, the clash holds much promise as it pits a top level northern hemisphere Heineken Cup team against a southern hemisphere Vodacom Super 12 counterpart, for the first time and on neutral ground. It is truly a mouth watering prospect for fans of rugby union around the globe. We are looking forward enormously to the trip and the challenge of what should prove a great match–up,” said Investec Stormers coach Gert Smal.
South Africa-based promoter Willem Strauss has played a key role in securing the game. He said: “This is a match which rugby fans from around the world will be watching with keen interest. We have already secured a number of live television broadcast agreements and more will follow. Both sides are excited about the thought of playing each other and representing their respective hemispheres in a game of this magnitude.”
According to Strauss the game between the Investec Stormers and Munster will attract huge support from the large South African and British expatriate community living and working in the Arabian Gulf. Strauss also expressed hope that this match would lead to a competition that would finally decide which is the strongest club/provincial side in the world of rugby.
Darryl Weir, Director of Rugby of the Gulf RFU, said: “Matches between the leading club or regional sides from the Northern and Southern hemispheres are extremely rare so we’re absolutely delighted to be able to announce that Munster will face the Investec Stormers in Dubai in February.
“The timing of the game is absolutely perfect for both sides. The Investec Stormers will be completing their preparations for the start of the Vodacom Super 12 while Munster will be gearing up for the second half of their season and a long run in the Heineken Cup.
“There is already a tremendous sense of anticipation surrounding the game. Rugby communities in both hemispheres have long wanted to see a match of this quality, and we’re very proud that Dubai is to be the stage for what is sure to be a memorable occasion.”
According to Jerry Holland, team manager of Munster, the game offers a welcome change and they are looking forward to playing the Investec Stormers in Dubai. Munster is currently heading Pool 4 in the Heineken Cup competition.
Sponsors who have already agreed to support the ‘Duel in the Desert’ include Emirates Airline and Heineken.