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Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD
Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD

The decision to wrap Springboks Deon Fourie and Marvin Orie in cotton wool in anticipation of the United Rugby Championship’s (URC’s) grandest day, paid handsome dividends as the Stormers marched into their second consecutive final.

The defending champions beat a spirited Connacht 43-25 at the Cape Town Stadium to secure their place in the final against Munster on the last Saturday of this month.

Influential fetcher Fourie and towering line-out talisman Orie were kept from harm’s way due to their hamstring and shoulder injuries respectively, and though the Stormers were less proficient at the breakdown and indeed the aerial set piece, they still got the job done.

“It wasn’t a gamble not to play them because it was the right thing for the players and the team,” said Stormers coach John Dobson.

“Medically they weren’t ruled out but we thought it best if we can get through without them. It is a massive relief that we did. If this was the final they would have played,” the coach admitted.

The pair should be back for the final, which should restore the Stormers to full capacity up front.

Dobson conceded the Stormers line-out suffered in the absence of Orie.

“We were at about 50% and we were at 100% against the Bulls [the previous week]. The wind didn’t make it easier and Ruben [van Heerden] isn’t used to five.

“What we may have lacked in the line-out we made up in physicality in defence. BJ [Ben-Jason Dixon] and Ruben, I don’t know how many tackles they made.”

The Stormers certainly stood their ground when they needed to.

They knew Connacht would adopt a ball in hand approach in their quest to keep the ball away from the home side’s elusive back three.

The Stormers, however, were at sea in the opening stages as they appeared full of semifinal jitters, albeit in a swirling and brisk south-easterly.

When they did hang onto the ball they were at times sublime as evidenced in Manie Libbok’s first try, Paul de Wet’s, which perhaps broke Connacht's resolve, as well as Ruhan Nel’s late match dash after an audacious offload by Hacjivah Dayimani.

The Stormers again failed to reap rewards from their scrum on a patchy surface, their line-out wobbled and their breakdown lacked decisiveness but they were able to call on their X-factor offload game to get the job done.

Connacht deserve kudos for their toil in getting the lion’s share of the possession and territory but it was the Stormers who made the telling line breaks that mattered.

Libbok, Angelo Davids, Damian Willemse and Dayimani again teased the opposition with their trickery in the offload.

Connacht, though game throughout, did not possess the same fire power.

Sure, the visitors too profited with four well-worked tries but they were playing catch-up once the Stormers calmed their early match jitters.

Willemse helped provide them the initial spark after their false start, before Libbok took a firmer grip on proceedings.

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