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Premiership club secures a March friendly versus URC's Stormers

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

Next month’s trip to Mattioli Woods Welford Road won’t be the only time that the Stormers will play in England during the 2023/24 season.

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The Cape Town-based URC franchise are set to tackle Leicester Tigers on December 10 in the opening round of the Investec Champions Cup, but they will return to the East Midlands 13 weeks later to take on Northampton Saints in a friendly.

The Stormers will be going to great lengths to play the match as the exhibition will fall between two URC fixtures scheduled in South Africa. John Dobson’s side are set to play the Bulls in Pretoria on March 2 and their next league match after that is in Cape Town on March 23 versus Edinburgh.

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With the Gallagher Premiership now just a 10-team league following the demise of Worcester, Wasps and London Irish, English clubs have been looking at ways to pad out their schedule.

Northampton will now follow up their early-season encounter with the Barbarians by welcoming the Stormers to Franklin’s Gardens on the same day that England host Ireland in Twickenham in round four of the Guinness Six Nations.

A statement read: “Northampton Saints are delighted to announce that the DHL Stormers will head to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens this spring for a blockbuster exhibition clash. The men in Black Green and Gold will welcome the Cape Town-based DHL Stormers – last season’s URC runners-up and Champions Cup quarter-finalists – on Saturday, March 9 (kick-off: 3pm).

“The fixture will be included in 2023/24 season ticket holders’ packages and falls during the Six Nations when Saints will be on an extended break from Gallagher Premiership action – adding an important clash into the calendar as Phil Dowson’s side prepare to begin the end-of-season run in.

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“Saints have never before locked horns with the South African side. John Dobson’s squad boasts a number of Springbok players (who recently represented world champions South Africa at the Rugby World Cup) amongst their ranks, and the DHL Stormers are set to break new ground as they take to the hallowed turf in Northampton for the first time ever.”

Saints CEO Mark Darbon said: “We’re very excited to welcome the DHL Stormers to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens next year. Securing another unique, competitive and meaningful fixture here at the Gardens has been a key priority for us over the last few months, in line with our aim to deliver the best value for money for our season ticket holders, ever since it became clear that the Premiership would be condensed into a 10-team competition this season.

“This fixture takes us to 16 home matches during the 2023/24 campaign and I hope our supporters will recognise the efforts we have made to host this extra match against a top-quality side who we have never faced before in the long history of the club and turn out in their droves to support Saints.

“As well as serving up a great afternoon of action for our season ticket holders, this is important for the squad from a performance point of view. There is a long gap between Premiership matches during the Six Nations period, and our first-team players will need some game time to properly prepare for the run-in to the campaign.

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“I know Phil Dowson and the squad are relishing the prospect of testing themselves against new opposition of very high calibre, and no doubt will be taking the opportunity to field a strong side.”

Stormers coach Dobson added: “Northampton are a prestigious opponent and cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens is an iconic rugby venue, so this has the makings of an epic exhibition game.

“Both teams have incredibly passionate supporters and this will be an historic occasion for all involved as we break new ground, so there is a lot to look forward to.”

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Eabn 8 hours ago
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Who cares - boring is good when it comes to Media - they don’t bug you as much. While the focus is on the resurrection of the Wallabies, don’t forget the grass roots - Any opportunity you have to visit, train or promote Rugby down here in Melbourne / Regional is pretty much imperative given the current situation with the Rebels. I’m talking about us grass roots clubs and more so, clubs in the West of Melbourne who are being absolutely smashed by Rugby League and who have been contributing directly to the game down here long before the Rebels emerged and no doubt will do so well after they may be gone. All I have heard is all about the elite level, not the grass roots level so while the talk is about “ The Wallabies” and “Super Rugby Pacific” get back to the roots of Union and include us in your plans. So Phil Waugh and those leaders within RugbyAustralia, it’s on you to ensure the bottom feeders, so to speak, are included in all the talk and the funding if you want Union to regain ground and more respect within the Union and also the broader sporting fraternity. Given you have been in Melbourne a number off times over the last month, extending the courtesy of having a meet and greet with Victorian grass root clubs eluded you for some reason. Do we count or matter in RA’s and yours bigger picture?? Ean Drummond - Club Founder/President - Wyndham City Rhinos RUFC Inc. Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne.

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