Red-hot DHL Stormers Are Bringing The Storm To The North


If Munster is about revenge for the DHL Stormers in a fortnight, then Friday's showdown with the Warriors in Glasgow is only about a victory for John Dobson's Capetonians.

The DHL Stormers’ much-anticipated grudge match in Limerick against the reigning champions Munster is the centrepiece of a gruelling four-week European tour for the 2023-24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship front-runners.

The Capetonians are two wins from two starts in South Africa, which has them sitting atop the Vodacom URC league table, but it is only wins on the road up north that will keep them there.

And, despite an incredible home record in the Vodacom URC, life on the road has never been quite as comfortable for John Dobson's boys.

The DHL Stormers, champions in the inaugural 2021/22 season, lost in a home final last season to Munster in the quest for a second successive title, but this season they've shown all the pomp of a champion side in edging the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg and beating the Scarlets 52-7 at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

Franco Smith’s Glasgow Warriors were unbeaten at home during the league phase last season, including a 24-17 win against the visiting DHL Stormers.

It is why Dobson's focus is exclusively on the Warriors and all thoughts of Munster must wait for the right occasion.

To be thinking this tour is just about beating Munster would prove disastrous but the DHL Stormers haven't had success because of disrespecting the opposition. Each opponent is given the necessary dues.

The loss against the Red Army in the Cape Town Grand Final delivered a gut punch to Dobson’s defending champions who were outfoxed by the determined Irish outfit in front of a packed DHL Stadium.

That disappointment was tempered by the reality of a superb campaign from DHL Stormers who proved very difficult to beat at home as they retained the SA Shield.

In 2023-24, the DHL Stormers’ ambition of hosting a third-successive Vodacom Vodacom URC final faces an early obstacle in the form of a challenging overseas expedition.

The SA outfit will square up against Benetton in Treviso on 11 November before challenging Munster and then closing out the tour against Cardiff (24 November).

Away from home in the 2021-22 Vodacom Vodacom URC, the DHL Stormers lost three, drew two, and won four matches en route to booking a Cape Town final where they beat the Vodacom Bulls. The heaviest of those three road losses was a 34-18 reverse against Munster in Round 2 at Thomond Park.

In 2022-23, the DHL Stormers’ road record was 4-2-3, and all three of the losses away from the shadow of Table Mountain came north of the equator, including a heavy 35-5 defeat to Ulster in Belfast.

The DHL Stormers have a keen understanding of the need to improve their record on foreign soil.

"We don’t have the best away record in the competition so far, so it’s definitely a goal we’ve set out for ourselves to achieve, to have a few good wins away from home,” said utility forward Ben-Jason Dixon.

“A tour is always a great opportunity for team building, that’s one thing, and obviously we’re looking for results so we’re definitely aiming for 15, 20 points from four matches, that would be ideal.

“The teams that we’re playing are formidable opposition so it’ll be a really, really good test and we’ll focus on playing really good rugby.”

Munster has proven to be a formidable adversary for the DHL Stormers, who have not beaten the Irish club in three meetings in the Vodacom Vodacom URC, as the Munstermen also claimed a 26-24 win at the DHL Stadium in Round 17 last season.

With their eyes set on redemption and revenge, the 18 November showdown between last season's finalists will be more than just about log points for the DHL Stormers.

“We haven’t spoken too much about the Munster game but obviously we're excited for it,” said Dixon. “Our away record in general can improve, and we definitely feel like we can take Munster!

“We want to go over there and prove something, especially after last year – they came and beat us on our home turf twice, so a bit of payback is looming."

Dobson, never one to sugarcoat anything, is a believer that tours bond players and improves performances, especially when there is adversity.

"We were one from five in our first season after battling up north and came back to win the title, so I accept that in this league there will be days where it doesn't always go for you. It is the nature of such an intense league but in our third season we want to be better on the road and we want to live the joys of touring different places and winning matches. Both are achievable, despite the enormity of the on-field challenge."