Dobson banking on Evans, Harris, Simelane for Stormers’ home run

Stormers coach John Dobson. | BackpagePix

Stormers coach John Dobson. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 19, 2024


Leighton Koopman

The Stormers are not – yet – fretting about their position in the URC, despite being outside of the play-off spots.

They know their destiny in sealing a knockout spot is in their own hands, and the hard work to break into the Champions Cup places begins this weekend against Edinburgh at home.

Stormers coach John Dobson. | BackpagePix

After an absence of almost two months, the inaugural URC winners are excited to be back at DHL Stadium (kick-off 5.05pm) as they target the next two matches of the competition, looking to gain winning momentum and improve on the ninth position they find themselves in.

Their last clash in the competition brought about a first-ever loss to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, but the Stormers have already identified their shortcomings in that North-South derby, which they hope will be fixed by this Saturday.

Failing to curb the Bulls’ contestable kicks and stopping the rolling mauls of the Pretoria side were two of the biggest contributing factors to their downfall.

Edinburgh can dish up the same with their pack of forwards and kickers in the backline and it’s something Stormers coach John Dobson wants his side to overcome early in the game.

The Cape side would not have found themselves in this position if they had won one or two matches on tour early on, but now they will have to make up those points in the final part of the season when they will mostly play at home.

Wandisile Simelane could make his first start in the URC for the Stormers in the coming weeks. | Backpagepix

“I am not worried about the position or where we are,” Dobson said yesterday.

“I’ve got no doubt that in this home run, we will get momentum and that (the log position) will look after itself. Our process now is a lot better than when we were on tour. The tour was where the damage was done, not at Loftus.

“What is important now, is to build momentum and everything will follow after that. We just need to beat Edinburgh, and that log will look different. If we get through Ulster, it will look more different.”

Dobson also stressed that, except for the Bulls, most of the teams above them will still have to travel to South Africa and that will be a tough task that could see the URC standings change too.

A bonus point win over Edinburgh will see them leapfrog the Scottish club if the Stormers in turn keep them from collecting any points from the match.

The visitors will likely rock up with all their Scotland internationals after the completion of the Six Nations this past weekend, and they will be eager to get over the disappointment of losing to Ireland.

Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe is expected to tour with Edinburgh and could face the Stormers on Saturday. | EPA

“Edinburgh is a tough team, they’ve done well this season. But we are also putting out a fantastic team. We learnt a lot from Loftus and there’s been some good growth in this team.

“From a coaching point of view, we missed some stuff against the Bulls. We could not get our line-out defence right and their desperation we didn’t match.

“Then there are a couple of other things like the contestable kicks, setting stuff on the attack, and maul variations on their line. But the things we identified are really easy for us to fix.”

The Stormers have highlighted winger Duhan van der Merwe, and scrumhalf Ali Price as attackers they’ll have to stop, and along with Argentine Emiliano Bofelli, they can bring some headaches for the home side when it comes to defending their line.

“Duhan is a world-class player, we can’t give him too much space as he’s bulldozed through international sides this season. They have an excellent kicking game and have hung around well in the northern hemisphere. But it’s going to be different in Cape Town.

“We have chosen a plan for Edinburgh, Ulster, and La Rochelle, but some guys have put their hand up like Connor Evans (lock), Brok Harris (prop) was good against Northampton, Wandi (Wandisile Simelane) too. These are guys who we want to get some form over these next games and they will feature.”