Before their semi-final meeting, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen preached caution over his side's favourites tag.

He referred to Munster's "singular focus" at the time, with Graham Rowntree's side having gone on a roll ever since their Heineken Champions Cup exit in the Round of 16.

It was a backhanded compliment of sorts. Here were Leinster fighting on both fronts, while plucky Munster had put all of their eggs into the BKT United Rugby Championship basket.

There's no doubt that he was correct in what he was saying though.

Munster have been a different animal since their Champions Cup exit in early April. If they beat the Stormers in Cape Town this evening they'll end their 12-year wait for silverware. Better one trophy than none.

At this stage of the season, everyone has a singular focus though, and it doesn't get much tougher in this competition than playing the Stormers in a Cape Town Grand Final.

The defending champions have selected a strong starting XV for the decider, with Springboks Marvin Orie and Deon Fourie both coming straight back into the side having recovered from injury.

Even just two seasons into the URC, these South African trips no longer seem as daunting as they were, particularly for Munster.

Last season they couldn't get out of the country after their Covid-19 outbreak in Pretoria, players and staff stranded in the self-isolation of their hotel rooms. This season, they can't stay away, with this trip being their third to South Africa in the space of just eight weeks.

Crucially, Rowntree's side are the only northern hemisphere side to have beaten the Stormers on their own patch in the last two seasons, with their 26-24 bonus-point win in Cape Town six weeks ago getting the ball rolling on their memorable run to the decider.

Munster came out on top when the sides met in Cape Town last month

The circumstances for this meeting are much different though.

When they met in April, the Stormers were locked into a home quarter-final, and with the top-seed lost to Leinster, they were simply jostling for position with Ulster for second and third.

In terms of personnel, they were a couple of gears short of their best; Evan Roos and Hershcel Jantjies were both on the bench that day, with Deon Fourie missing entirely. All three start this game, with Angelo Davids and Leolin Zas also coming onto the wings since.

The big difference will be the crowd.

Munster's win in April was watched by a 15,000 crowd, which can get lost in such a vast stadium, but smart pricing for the decider saw all 55,000 tickets snapped up within three hours, a record home attendance for the Stormers.

Between 2,000-3,000 away supporters have made the expensive trip south, which is equally impressive, but you don't have to remind anybody in Munster about the impact a vocal home support can have.

The location of this game won't matter a jot to Munster though. Given how precarious their season looked at times in the last eight months, they'd have walked to Cape Town if you told them a trophy was on the line.

Rowntree and his coaches pleaded caution at the start of the season as they performed surgery on both their gameplan and how they trained, and after the province lost five of their first seven games, it seemed like even qualifying for the Champions Cup would be a stretch, let alone potentially winning a title.

Their semi-final win against Leinster would indicate that they are still a work in progress.

While they dominated their rivals at the Aviva Stadium, they should never have needed Jack Crowley (below) to save the day with that late drop-goal, and if they are to get their hands on the trophy this evening they can't be as wasteful in the opposition 22.

On Friday, Rowntree rejected the suggestion that the province are in "bonus territory" having reached an unlikely final, but while those within the camp would never admit to it, it's hard to argue that they're playing this game with house money given their season's prospects just eight weeks ago.

Regardless of who lifts the trophy tonight, it feels like this squad and coaching ticket are still just developing, and it bodes well for their chances of kicking on further in 2024.

Throughout the season, the coaching staff have put their stamp on the team, with the likes of Shane Daly, Calvin Nash, Diarmuid Barron, Jack Crowley and John Hodnett marking their territory in the starting XV.

Complimenting them in the squad are the old heads; Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony, Stephen Archer and Keith Earls, the survivors of the last Munster group to lift silverware in 2011.

Murray, Archer and Earls all featured in that 2011 Celtic League final win against Leinster with O'Mahony a member of the wider squad that season, with this a fourth final appearance for Munster in the 12 years since.

In each of those defeats to Glasgow (2015), Scarlets (2017) and Leinster (2021), the common theme was that Munster failed to fire a shot, but given the adventure they've shown throughout this season, and in particular their fearless approach in the semi-final two weeks ago, it's hard to see them let this 80 minutes pass without taking some swings for the fences.

The Stormers are defending champions, having beaten the Bulls in last year's final

The Stormers have a proven track record of playing attacking rugby, and are as dangerous as any other side in the league in both creating space and exploiting it.

But history has shown that they do allow the opposition opportunities to score, with Connacht, Bulls, Leinster and Munster themselves enjoying spells of dominance against them. Making those periods of dominance count will be one of the deciding factors.

Motivation is never hard to find in a final, and the province were delivered a hamper of it after the semi-finals weekend, when a video of the Stormers players and staff deliriously celebrating Munster's win against Leinster did the rounds last week, in addition to hooker Joseph Dweba's boisterous shouts of "We're gonna f*** them up!"

In reality, those celebrations were less about facing Munster, and more about not having to make another trip to the airport, but the hooker - whose throwing has never been elite - will have a target on him every time he fires to a lineout.

"I think if they're going to spend their time chasing Joseph Dweba that’s great because he won’t retreat," said Dobson about the video and its potential impact on the game.

If the game is close down the stretch, it's unlikely to daunt Munster.

They've proven this season against both Leinster and Ulster that they can keep a steady hand when the clock is against them to score, while they've also shown against Northampton Saints, Glasgow and in their previous meeting with the Stormers that they have faith in their own defence to see a game out from a winning position.

With all that said, they remain underdogs, and it's likely their opponents will be several gears above the team beaten by Munster last month, with Fourie (below) in particular offering them a breakdown threat that they dearly lacked in that regular season meeting.

The schedule is also on the South Africans' side.

Six games in a row away from home, four of them coming on the other side of the world, is an exhausting run of games for Munster. The Stormers, meanwhile, haven't left the western cape since early April, which goes some way to explaining their celebrations that went viral after it was confirmed they'd face Munster.

They don't lose often at home, and they'll be determined to make sure Munster don't beat them again.

Verdict: Stormers

Stormers: Damian Willemse; Angelo Davids, Ruhan Nel, Dan du Plessis, Leolin Zas; Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies; Steven Kitshoff (capt), Joseph Dweba, Frans Malherbe; Marvin Orie, Ruben van Heerden; Deon Fourie, Hacjivah Dayimani, Evan Roos.

Replacements: JJ Kotze, Ali Vermaak, Neethling Fouche, Ben-Jason Dixon, Willie Engelbrecht, Marcel Theunissen, Paul de Wet, Clayton Blommetjies.

Munster: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Shane Daly; Jack Crowley, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O'Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, RG Snyman, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Keith Earls.

Listen to the RTÉ Rugby podcast on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow Stormers v Munster in the United Rugby Championship Grand Final with our live blog on the RTÉ News app or RTÉ.ie/Sport.

Listen to live commentary on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1, with kickoff at 5.30pm.