Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
20 Jun 2022
9:03 am

OPINION: URC to move onto great heights after successful integration of SA teams

Ross Roche

The European teams, particularly the Irish powerhouses, will be eager for revenge and will be coming with vengeance next season.

The Stormers celebrate winning the URC on Saturday night. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The 2022 shakeup of the United Rugby Championship was officially completed over the weekend when the Stormers triumphed over the Bulls in an all-South Africa final to claim the inaugural title.

When SA’s four main teams were confirmed to be moving up North, leading to the restructuring of the Pro14 into the URC, there were many unconvinced pundits, coaches and players on what kind of worth they would bring.

But after a brilliant inaugural season that saw the South essentially claim the tournament as their own, the worth cannot be ignored anymore and the competition is now set to move to even greater heights in the coming years.

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The European teams, particularly the Irish powerhouses, will be eager for revenge and will be coming with vengeance next season.

This season also saw the return of the classic North v South, Bulls v Stormers rivalry that had been lacking over the last couple years, due to the Covid pandemic.

The two teams battled it out three times over the URC campaign, with all three games going down to the wire with the Stormers winning the first at Loftus by four points, and the second and third at the Cape Town Stadium by two and five points respectively.

 The margins showed that either team could have come away with the positive result and the Sharks will be feeling slightly left out with the Stormers v Bulls game now the main local derby to watch.

Big improvement

The Sharks themselves will be aiming for a much improved second season in the URC, after a disappointing first showing.

They did finish the season in the top five and qualified for Europe, but with a host of Springbok players in their side, more was expected of them.

With them now being reinforced by Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Tshituka, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Carlu Sadie for next season, even more will be expected of the Durban franchise and they will need to meet those expectations to assure their investors.

The Lions are also facing a massive second season in the URC, as although their 11th place finish in their inaugural campaign was a decent showing, they face the risk of being left completely in the dust to battle it out with the back markers if they don’t improve.