Manie Libbok Stormers

Manie Libbok has reached new heights over the last 18 months. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

URC match preview: Stormers must to slay Dragons or else…

The Stormers have to find their mojo against the Dragons in Newport or run the risk of dropping out of the top eight playoff zone in the URC standings.

Manie Libbok Stormers

Manie Libbok has reached new heights over the last 18 months. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

The Stormers will front up to their tough assignment against the Dragons without their marquee player Damian Willemse when the sides face off in Newport on Friday night.

PLAYOFF PERMUTATIONS AND MATCH PREVIEW

With the log battle continuing to play out like it was scripted by someone with an appetite for high drama and suspense, a Stormers defeat (coupled with favourable results in this round for other playoff hopefuls) could see the Cape side lose its spot in the top eight on the log.

The Stormers may face a tough assignment playing away from home, but they will take comfort from the fact that the Dragons are second-last on the log with only three victories in their 15 matches so far this season.

The visitors will enter their clash against the Dragons as favourites on form and based on their log position, especially with their track record showing nine wins this season to three by the Dragons, which includes a morale-boosting 42-12 victory against Leinster two weeks ago.

That said, they will be careful about writing off the hosts, whose three wins were all at home in Newport.

With the Capetonians having scored 128 points more than their opposition this season and conceding 218 points fewer, they will target this match for a bonus point victory. The fact that they face a daunting task next week against Connacht in their second tour game will also certainly fuel their determination.

John Dobson’s men will be strong favourites, but they haven’t been great in Wales recently. A defeat now would seriously threaten their Champions Cup status, apart from ending any hope of a top-four finish, so the pressure on them is red hot.

The Stormers play on Friday night, as do Edinburgh, who are just outside the top eight currently, in ninth. Their South African coach Sean Everitt will be expecting full points against Zebre to launch them back into the top eight and a final push over the last two games.

‘WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE’, SAYS STORMERS SKIPPER

Speaking in during an online conference on Thursday, Salmaan Moerat reiterated the importance of the match in the context of their campaign.

“We haven’t been in this position before, where we’re on a tour and it’s a must-win tour for us, so we’ll treat it like a playoff. We know what’s at stake,” the Stormers skipper told reporters.

“We made it a bit hard for ourselves losing that Ospreys game but looking forward, it’s a very important tour for us.

“We all understand – players and coaches – the magnitude of this tour and what the possible permutations can work out to, so we know the importance of this game.

“Ultimately we want to host a quarter-final but the only thing that’s in our hands is getting the result. If we’re going to worry about this team having to lose or that team having to win and depend on other teams, then we’re in the wrong place.

“We’re in the right space of mind and focusing on ourselves knowing that we need the four points, worst-case [scenario] the five points.”

MATCH DETAILS: DRAGONS V STORMERS

Date: Friday, 10 May
Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport
Referee: Chris Busby
SA Time: 20h35
TV: SuperSport

URC Stormers
Springbok Warrick Gelant is starting at fullback for the Stormers. Photo: Backpagepix