WP Nel set for historic milestone against Stormers in URC clash in Cape Town

Stormers fullback Warrick Gelant challenged by WP Nel of the Edinburgh rugby team during the quarterfinals of the URC Championship game at Cape Town Stadium

Edinburgh will name their side on Friday for the Stormers URC clash, but are likely to be without several Scottish internationals, making it more likely that WP Nel (pictured right) will face the Cape side. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 21, 2024


While the Stormers faithful await the return of Steven Kitshoff next weekend with Ulster to Cape Town, another prop will be looking to find a reason to celebrate against them this weekend as the United Rugby Championship swings back into action.

Former Cheetahs and current Edinburgh stalwart WP Nel will run on for an incredible 200th cap for his Scottish side - a milestone rarely seen in professional rugby and even more rare for a South African-born player.

Edinburgh will name their side on Friday for the Stormers clash, but are likely to be without several Scottish internationals, making it more likely that Nel will face the Cape side with a number returning next weekend against the Sharks.

That leaves the mouth-watering prospect next weekend for coach Sean Everitt to load his side against his former employers, and given that his departure wasn’t on his own terms, it is likely to be a big fixture indeed for the Edinburgh boss.

Lofty Edinburgh goals

Edinburgh currently sit fourth on the URC log and getting as many points as possible from their South African tour is massive for their ambitions for the playoffs, as well as keeping pace with Glasgow Warriors, who sit one place above them.

Still Nel’s massive milestone will be one to celebrate for the veteran prop, and has brought up questions on how long he can go, something he hasn’t admittedly given much thought. Nel is third on the all time Edinburgh appearances list, way behind Allan Jacobsen’s 273 and just behind Chris Paterson’s 205 caps for the club.

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought yet,” he said this week. “If it comes this weekend it would be pretty special.

“I wouldn’t have thought I’d play 100 games, so to play 200 is special. It’s not everyone who plays 200 games. To be part of this club for 12 years and get to 200 games, it’s definitely special. To be in that club with Mossy [Paterson] and Chunk [Jacobsen] is awesome.”

While the Stormers are sure to give Nel a round of applause before the battle begins, Franco Smith’s Glasgow will kick off the weekend with a tough home fixture against Cardiff.

Like most sides in Round 12 of the championship, they will likely have to do without some of their Six Nations stars, and much will depend on the mix and match equation that coaches will do in trying to name the strongest side without international stars.

Welsh rugby is really in a low ebb at the moment and the Warriors have enough momentum that should carry them to the first victory of the weekend.

A similar proposition is across at the Swansea stadium where the Ospreys will host Munster in Friday night’s other game.

Monster Munster mission

While Munster are to be without a number of internationals, and the Ospreys are one of the more improved sides this season, the Irish side desperately need the points to climb the ladder if they are to defend their title.

Sitting in sixth spot they will want a top four finish to get a home initial playoff and higher if they want to make their path easier and are likely to target this game for a full house of points.

Ireland’s dominance in the Six Nations hasn’t thus far been translated to the URC and while Leinster remain the powerhouse they always have been, and head the log with dogged consistency, the other Irish teams have struggled to dominate in the same fashion as their national team.

Leinster will be without the bulk of their internationals as they head to Parma, but few would bet against them coming back with five points from that game late on Saturday night to set up a Round 13 showdown with the Bulls, who are favourites to win away from home at the Dragons on Saturday.

Instead the Irish focus will be more on Connacht at home against the Lions, looking to shore up their top eight spot against a team that has blown hot and cold while Ulster head to Durban to face the Sharks.

That game in itself is an intriguing fixture, especially as the Sharks have been better than their log position suggests, but continue to lose fixtures and produce performances undercutting the amount of talent in their squad.

Coach John Plumtree believes the turnaround is near and with Ulster under new management, the opportunity is there to claim a scalp at home if they can produce a top notch performance.

Ulster has done better than most teams in the Republic though.

The final fixture will see Benetton’s depth tested again as they head to Scarlets for a fixture they desperately need points from to bounce back from their mid-season slump, and should produce an entertaining fixture.