Santiago Cordero to make first Connacht appearance after recovering from long-term injury

Connacht to bid farewell to departing players during the final game before the Dexcom Stadium will be redeveloped

Connacht’s season ambitions are on the line when they host DHL Stormers in Dexcom Stadium on Saturday evening (5.05pm).

A victory over the South Africans is a must to keep alive Connacht’s slim hopes of making the URC quarter-finals before they head to the RDS for a final fling against Leinster.

Not the easiest of finishes then after promising start, which included a home win over current leaders Glasgow. But Connacht are now counting the cost of recent back-to-back losses to Emirates Lions and Benetton, and a thumping from Munster in Thomond Park.

However, the home side is expected to have the backing of a bumper crowd for this final home game at the sportsground before the diggers move in to tear down the Clan Stand. There will be no shortage of emotion on the playing field with the departure of some long established Connacht players, notably Clifden-born Tiernan O’Halloran, who retires as the club’s leading URC try scorer after 15 years and some 230 appearances, and former captain Jarrad Butler, who in his seven years at the Sportsground amassed 100 URC games.


Equally notable is the inclusion of Argentinian international Santiago Cordero, who is expected to make his first appearance from the bench, having recovered from a serious knee injury that he sustained in pre-season training.

Wilkins says this fixture will be a “momentous occasion with departing players, potential debuts, and everything happening with the Clan Stand”.

However, he says: “First and foremost it’s a massive game we have to win.”

“Making the play-offs and qualifying for the the Champions Cup is the goal, and Connacht must now produce a performance that shows we deserve to reach the next stage.”

However, bettings odds would have favour the South Africans who, fifth in the table, are hunting down a home quarter-final. And Stormers’ head coach John Dobson is not taking chances, including a number of Springboks in his line-up captained by lock Salmaan Moerat.

This is a demanding fixture for Connacht against a side, that with only 40 per cent possession in attack, produced 12 clean breaks and five tries, while also delivering a 100 per cent kicking ratio last week against the Dragons in their 21-44 victory. The concession of those 21 points does provide a glimmer of hope, but it would be hard to bet against the visitors unless Connacht, encouraged by an expected full house, can match them physically, cut out the errors, and capitalise on scoring opportunities.

Connacht: T O’Halloran; J Porch, D Hawkshaw, B Aki, B Ralston; J Carty, C Blade; P Dooley, D Heffernan (capt), F Bealham; J Joyce, D Murray; C Prendergast, S Hurley-Langton, S Jansen.

Replacements: D Tierney-Martin, J Duggan, J Aungier, O Dowling, J Butler, C Reilly, C Forde, S Cordero.

DHL Stormers: W Gelant; S Hartzenberg, D du Plessis, D Willemse, A Davids; M Libbok, H Jantjies; B Harris, J Dweba, F Malherbe; S Moerat (capt), R van Heerden; E Roos, B Dixon, H Dayimani. 

Replacements: A Venter, K Blose, N Fouche, A Smith, M Theunissen, S Ungerer, J du Plessis, S Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Referee: Federico Vedovelli (Italy).