Munster have the momentum, belief and quality to end their long wait for silverware

Jack Crowley during the Munster rugby captain's run at DHL Stadium in Cape Town. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O’Connor

There are enough people in the Munster set-up who know the harsh realities of life at the top, to drive home the message that these opportunities don’t present themselves very often.

The Stormers are on a mission to make Cape Town smile, but Munster are intent on wiping those grins off local faces after making one last trip at the end of a long season.

Graham Rowntree reckons his team have clocked up 100,000km in the last three months. When they return home tomorrow, it will be the sixth time they’ve traversed the equator in three months. If the URC trophy is part of their carry-on luggage, they’ll wear the jet lag lightly.

Can they do it? It will take some effort to dethrone a Stormers side packed with quality players but it’s far from impossible.

They have momentum, belief and a 23 full of high-end players of their own, while if they’re short of motivation they only have to lift their phones from their pockets and watch the South Africans celebrating Jack Crowley’s drop-goal in the semi-final.

Even if no disrespect was intended, the sight of hooker Joseph Dweba roaring ‘We’re going to f*** them up!’ into the camera would be fodder to any team.

​Peter O’Mahony swears he hasn’t watched it, Rowntree says he’s flicked through it a few times but that there’s enough on the table not to need a video to get his players going. They’ll have to be smart, aggressive and, above all, accurate to win.

​Keep the ball off the floor and play-time high, avoid scrums and defensive mauls and kick cleverly. They’ll need to strike when the opportunities arise, to silence the vociferous home support and give their band of visiting fans the chance to make their voices heard.

They know that the scrum could be a source of concern, so it’s imperative to limit the damage. They know their attacking lineout is a weapon, that they have the capacity to get under the Stormers’ skin and it’s up to them to do so.

John Dobson’s men are worthy champions, but they are far from unbeatable.

Connacht dominated the ball here two weeks ago, but weren’t good enough in defence or attack to make it count.

Munster, however, will count on their superb work without the ball, their breakdown threats and their improving attack to get them the points they need and deny the home side, who carry an array of threats.

In Damian Willemse they’ve a creative force at full-back, while Manie Libbok is one of the best young out-halves in the game who can prise teams open in a second.

Their midfield is beefy, their wingers electric and their pack is heavy and packs a punch.

If Evan Roos or Hacjivah Dayimani get a gallop up, they’ll cause problems, while their 6/2 bench split of forwards and backs is designed to keep the foot down for 80 minutes.

At the same time, the locals know all about what their visitors have to offer.

“We understand the threats of Munster,” captain Steven Kitshoff said ahead of his last game for the Stormers before he moves to Ulster.

“We had a real deep dive into their DNA and the way they play.

“We understand that we can’t allow Munster to get their tails up. We can’t allow them to score early. They scored a brilliant maul try against us the last time but it’s something we’ve worked hard on, to fix some mistakes.”

For Munster, it’s about riding out the tough moments and striking when the chances come. It’s about stepping up in the big moments and forcing the issue.

“That confidence comes from our game, our training, our intensity and just getting a taste of winning away from home on the road,” Rowntree said.

“They’re buying into it and people like Pete (O’Mahony) personify that (resilence).

“And the young men as well; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey, John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen. Kendellen plays some weeks less than 15 minutes a game but he’s a very influential player. They’re driving the group as much as the older lads.”

Their mates up at Leinster could tell them a tale about how tough it is to win a final, but at the end of a rollercoaster season, they look ready to take the last step and end their 12-year wait for a trophy.

Verdict: Munster

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