Cape Town - The fact that the Stormers need just one point to advance to the last-16 of the Champions Cup gives coach John Dobson a bit of licence to be more creative with his selection at flyhalf for Saturday’s clash against Clermont.
The United Rugby Championship winners return to the Cape Town Stadium (7.30pm kickoff) following last Sunday’s 28-14 bonus-point victory over London Irish in England, but Dobson was frustrated by a second-half display against 13 men that he said “left a bit of a weird taste in the mouth”.
That will definitely receive the necessary attention when the team return to training today after arriving back home yesterday, with the poor execution and decision-making on attack the main problematic area.
Dobson was pleased with how things were going when Manie Libbok was at flyhalf against Irish, but once he was injured and went off in the 18th minute in a tackle that led to a red card for fullback Ben Loader, the Stormers lost their rhythm.
The coach was at pains not to blame youngster Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu entirely, as he took responsibility for thrusting the Junior Springbok captain into the pivot position for Libbok when he had trained to come on at fullback during the week.
Now with Libbok out of the Clermont clash with concussion, Dobson needs to make the big call at No 10 – stick with Feinberg-Mngomezulu, or move Damian Willemse from No 15 to flyhalf?
Dobson mentioned Jean-Luc du Plessis and Kade Wolhuter as alternatives as well, and that could be the way to go if he is picking a second-string side against Clermont in order to rest the first-choice team for next Friday’s URC showdown against Ulster in Belfast.
But if the A team takes to the pitch this Saturday, then selecting Feinberg-Mngomezulu in the No 10 jersey would be a positive route to take.
Willemse and Libbok will have a lengthy break with a number of other Springboks in February and March anyway, so it is time to give the young pivot a chance to establish himself as the key driver of the Stormers attack.
“It (selection) is pre-planned, and (the win over Irish) hasn’t changed that. We’ve also got a responsibility to put on a nice game at Cape Town Stadium – we’ve had a lot of away games – and we want to have a say on the venue of where the last-16 is played, and that’s very important,” Dobson said.
“Also, there will be a couple of Springboks who will be resting after this, so we probably won’t be changing too much. A guy like Manie is expected to be out, and the rest will go as best as we can.
“At set-piece, there were a lot of free kicks, a bit of a roll-of-the-dice (situation), a bit erratic… That, and looking after the ball. Our plan was to be direct, and especially when you have numbers up, one of the re-entry points into the game is that you need to make use of the ball – and poor discipline.
“With the numbers up, one of the things mentioned was to almost get to a set-piece game, because that’s where you can’t hide the numbers – and to just make sure we got the territory… That’s why you saw the kicks into the 22 – which is actually not how we play rugby.
“It was our discipline factor: not rolling, counter-rucks, and us not looking after the ball. So, we had to almost go into our non-style, which often happens with teams.”