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Stormers’ victory parade in Stellenbosch proves to be ‘expensive’

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Cape Town – The Stormers will end up third on the log of the United Rugby Championship (URC) despite claiming a bonus-point win over Benetton on Friday.

They also lifted the South African Shield after finishing the league phase ahead of their domestic rivals.

But the team paid a bigger price in the final match of the regular season with injuries to key players whose fitness they will sweat over ahead of the URC knockouts in two weeks’ time.

Locks Ruben van Heerden and Ernst van Rhyn, and winger Seabelo Senatla were all withdrawn during Friday’s action after picking up injuries. Van Heerden left the field in the first half and was replaced by Van Rhyn who gingerly walked off minutes after getting onto the Danie Craven Stadium pitch.

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The Stormers beat Benetton 38-22 to cement their place among the top four for a home quarter-final, but could not get to second place as Ulster beat Edinburgh to make it an all Irish top-two on the URC log.

The Stormers and Ulster ended on the same points, but the Irish club pipped them by virtue of winning more games than the defending URC champions.

Depending on what happens in the quarter-finals, the Stormers will now most likely travel to Ulster for the semis. In last season’s playoffs, Ulster traveled to Cape Town and narrowly lost after flyhalf Manie Libbok’s conversion sent the Cape side through to a home final.

“It was an expensive day for us,” Stormers coach John Dobson said after his team’s win on Friday evening.

“Benetton is a tough team and to lose two locks in one half. Any knee injury is a serious one. Suleiman (Hartzenberg, winger who played in the Currie Cup) obviously also looks very serious. So it’s a very pricey day at the wrong time.

“Seabelo is off to the hospital (after suffering a serious head knock) and they’ll keep him overnight,” Dobson added of his other injured winger.

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“Ruben and Ernst haven’t been scanned yet, but it’s two knees. So if you lose two locks, luckily we had cover and BJ (Ben-Jason Dixon) did brilliantly).”

The Stormers came alive just before halftime when a try by loose forward Willie Engelbrecht gave them the lead over the visitors. It gave them the necessary momentum to start the second half on the front foot to put the Italian side away.

Benetton fought for long and kept the Stormers’ dangerous attackers at bay, but when the pack of forwards of the URC champions found their feet, especially with rolling mauls, they overpowered their opponents.

Dobson was pleased with the performance and the team felt they got what they wanted from the game except for the injuries of course.

The Stormers now await the result of other matches on Saturday to find out who their quarter-final opponents at the Cape Town Stadium will be.

@Leighton_K

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