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'The game in Connacht was where it started - then beating Leinster gave us confidence'

At one stage, there was talk of the Cheetahs replacing the Stormers in the URC but they defied the odds to win the title.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE STORMERS HAVE said their victories over Leinster and Ulster inspired them to believe that a United Rugby Championship title success was possible.

The Stormers beat the Bulls 18-13 in the URC final at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. The result capped a fairytale season for the Stormers, who have overcome a series of challenges on and off the field.

Afterwards, captain Steven Kitshoff and coach John Dobson described the experience as “surreal”. Asked to highlight the turning point of their season, Kitshoff reflected on the 19-17 loss to Connacht in Galway back in February.

Since then, the Stormers have won 11 games in a row and ultimately their first intercontinental title.

“The game in Connacht was where it started,” Kitshoff said. “We were in the game for 50 minutes and then we threw it away.

“We came back to Cape Town and then decided what we needed to do. Back then, we were scrapping to make the quarter-finals and to qualify for the Champions Cup.

“That was a low point. The high points for me were when we beat Leinster and then Ulster during the league stage. That’s when we saw that we could beat some of the best clubs.

“We stayed in the fight in those games, and we stayed in the fight in the final against the Bulls. The never-say-die characteristic of this team is special.”

Dobson deserves praise for keeping the team together. The Western Province Rugby Union was placed in administration in late-2021. At one stage, there was talk of the Cheetahs replacing the Stormers in the URC.

“I remember hearing that rumour while on a train to Venice,” said Dobson. “It’s been an amazing journey. It’s an amazing story if you think about where we’ve come from.

sergeal-petersen-celebrates Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Nobody has epitomised the work ethic and belief of this team as much as the man sitting next to me,” the coach said before turning to Kitshoff.

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Dobson hopes that the victory marks the start of an era of prosperity for rugby in the Western Cape.

“We had a mission statement at the start of the season: ‘Get Cape Town smiling’.

“It was completely surreal to walk around the stadium after the final. People weren’t saying ‘Well done’. They were saying ‘Thank you’. I felt like we should be thanking them.

“It’s been great to connect with the fans again after Covid, and they really made a difference in the final. I was reluctant to leave Newlands, but the Cape Town Stadium could surpass that experience in the future.”

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Jon Cardinelli

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