South Africa’s influence has transformed the Vodacom United Rugby Championship from an “ugly duckling” into the “Cinderella” of northern hemisphere rugby, writes MARK KEOHANE.

The DHL Stormers will host a second successive Vodacom URC final on Saturday when the defending champions take on Munster at a sold-out Cape Town Stadium, with 55,000 spectators expected to attend the match.

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Since entering into the Vodacom URC, which is an expansion from the former PRO Rugby league, South Africa has seen three of its four franchises – the Stormers, Vodacom Bulls and Sharks – qualify for the playoffs in both seasons to date.

Writing on, Keohane fired back against critics of the league, arguing that while the Vodacom URC continues to reach new heights, the English Premiership is losing teams to financial difficulties.

“The Pro 12, then Pro 14 and then Pro Rugby, was the ugly duckling of professional club rugby up north. Enter South Africa into the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and it is more Cinderella time.

“The Toffs don’t like it. They give it three years, at best, while their own league burns. Others talk about ‘now’ but the reality is that on Saturday 55 000 will watch the DHL Stormers host Ireland’s Munster in the final. It is the Stormers second home final in two years of the league.

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“Now that the South Africans are in the north, there is a quivering, but ironically it is not coming from the URC league nations but from the desperate mob in England who hailed the Premiership as rugby’s ultimate domestic competition and England, by extension, as the ultimate international team.”

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Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

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