The DHL Stormers and Connacht will kick off the top-four action at the DHL Stadium at 16h00 on Saturday, with Irish arch-rivals, Leinster and Munster, going head-to-head in the other semi-final at 18h30 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The DHL Stormers will enter the clash in the Mother City as favourites with home ground advantage, form and statistics counting in their favour. Connacht will also be wary of the defending champions’ impressive track record at home, where they have lost only twice in 22 home matches in the last two seasons.
A spot in the final aside, the Capetonians’ motivation to register a victory will be fuelled by the fact that a win will also keep them in the race for a possible home final should Munster create an upset against Leinster, thanks to the new tournament rule that the highest-ranked of the two finalists will host the Grand Final.
The DHL Stormers boast a significantly better attacking record with 564 points scored this season to Connacht’s 471, but the teams’ defensive statistics are more closely matched, with the Cape side conceding 412 points to 436 by the Irish outfit.
The hosts will also draw inspiration from the fact that they registered a comfortable 38-15 victory against the visitors at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch in the pool stages. Interestingly this will mark Connacht’s first visit to the DHL Stadium, as the teams’ last two outings were in Stellenbosch and Galway respectively.
The visitors, in turn, who finished the pool stages in seventh place, will enter the clash with the mindset that nothing is impossible after defying the odds to beat the second-placed Ulster away last week in the quarter-final to advance to the top four.
This victory came after a morale-boosting run of winning six of their last seven league games to qualify for the playoffs, while they will also draw some confidence from the fact that they defeated the DHL Stormers 19-17 in a tight match in Galway last season.
The fact of the matter for both teams is that the winner will advance to the final, while the loser will drop out of the competition, meaning neither of them will leave anything to chance, which sets the scene for a gripping encounter.
Should the DHL Stormers continue with their impressive run at home and come away with the win, they will turn their attention almost immediately to Dublin to see whether they will have to travel to Ireland, or if they did enough to host their second successive home Grand Final.
Match information – Vodacom URC semi-finals:
DHL Stormers v Connacht
Date: Saturday, 13 May
Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town
SA Time: 16h00
Referee: Mike Adamson
Leinster v Munster
Date: Saturday, 13 May
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
SA Time: 18h30
Referee: Frank Murphy