Stormers Bulls URC

The Stormers beat the Bulls in their last United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at the Cape Town Stadium. Photo: X @THESTORMERS

Stormers can clinch SA Shield at Loftus next weekend

The Stormers could once again clinch the South African shield in the URC when they head to Loftus to face the Bulls next weekend.

Stormers Bulls URC

The Stormers beat the Bulls in their last United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at the Cape Town Stadium. Photo: X @THESTORMERS

The four United Rugby Championship competitions within a competition for the respective URC Shield trophies are being tightly fought, but the Stormers can end the speculation on the home front if they win the big north/south derby against the Bulls at Loftus.

With just two points separating the log leaders, the Stormers, and the second-placed Bulls, it is impossible to underplay the significance of the destination of the South African Shield trophy of the 2 March north/south showdown at Loftus. With just one game to play after that, the two-point advantage the Stormers currently enjoy should make it just a bridge too far for the Bulls when they travel to Durban for their last game of the league phase at the beginning of June.

Conversely, defeat for the Stormers will see the Bulls go ahead of them for the first time this season, and then everything will come down to the final round, with both teams playing derby games that count for the Shield title. While the Bulls go to Hollywoodbets Kings Park to face the Hollywoodbets Sharks, the Stormers will be hosting the Emirates Lions on the same afternoon.

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There might be some who will be surprised to learn that the Stormers are ahead in the Shield when they trail the Bulls by five points on the overall log after both have played 10 games. Last season and the season before that, it would have meant the Bulls would be in front.

Back then, though, there’d also be eight games remaining that count for the Shield. Now, there is only one more game to be played with the Shield at stake after the next round of games, which sees the north/south derby coincide with the return derby between the Lions and Sharks in Johannesburg.

The URC organisers decided this year to up the ante in the derbies by making it more of a stand-alone competition with only the games played between participating teams in the Shield counting.

The Stormers, who’ve played four derbies so far this season and have won all of them, are out in front in the URC SA Shield with 17 points. The Bulls have lost once, to the Stormers in Cape Town before Christmas, but are within touching distance of the Stormers by virtue of their having picked up three bonus points to the Stormers’ one, one of those points being the one they gained by sneaking a late score in the DHL Stadium derby so they lost by less than seven. That could come back to hurt the Stormers’ chances of retaining the Shield if the Loftus game doesn’t go their way.

The Bulls are hoping to draw a full house to the game, meaning there could be 51 000 people present, when two quality teams clash on Saturday week, with the Bulls desperate to break a seven-game losing sequence against their arch-rivals from Cape Town. The Bulls were a distant second to the Stormers on both log tables and in the games they played against each other last season, but this term, they have improved considerably and weren’t far off the Stormers in the DHL Stadium clash.

The local Shield battle is a two-horse race, with neither of the Lions, who have seven points and the Sharks, who have three, featuring in the contest for the trophy that Steven Kitshoff has held aloft over the past two seasons.

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Stormers lead the way for the SA URC Shield

Stormers: Played 4 Won 4 Lost 0 Drawn 0 Pts 17
Bulls: Played 4 Won 3 Lost 1 Drawn 0 Pts 15
Lions: Played 4 Won 1 Lost 3 Drawn 0 Pts 7
Sharks: Played 4 Won 0 Lost 4 Drawn 0 Pts 3