Stormers coach John Dobson is wary of Harlequins’ high-risk game

John Dobson is hoping his team can counter Harlequins playing style. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

John Dobson is hoping his team can counter Harlequins playing style. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Mar 30, 2023


Cape Town - The high-risk, high-reward style that Harlequins play can make it a long day at the office for the Stormers on Saturday when the two teams square off in the European Champions Cup in Cape Town.

That's why John Dobson, coach of the Cape side, hopes their opponents do not click when they square off for a place in the quarter-final at the DHL Stadium (kick-off 4pm) this weekend.

Dobson will be able to call on his strongest side for this historic clash as they push to go a step further in their debut season in the European competition.

He warned his troops, though, that they have to be up to standard on defence to curb Harlequins.

“If they get quick ball and click in our conditions, they can put us under real pressure defensively. I just hope they don't click,” Dobson said with a little laugh.

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“I saw them put 40 points on Exeter a couple of weeks ago. I think they deserve enormous credit for the type of rugby they play. To play rugby like this in English conditions the way they do, it's amazing.

“It is a high-risk game and some days it doesn't happen for them. But to play this style in south-west London, it's great for rugby.”

The Stormers will definitely fight fire with fire when it comes to a running type of game but playing in their first European knockout in front of their home crowd can bring extra pressure.

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If they pull off a win over Harlequins and other results go their way, the Capetonians will have a possible quarter-final in the DHL Stadium as well, most likely against French giants Montpellier.

Otherwise, a trip to Exeter Chiefs awaits them if they progress but Montpellier loses to Exeter.

Dobson said they have spoken about managing the expectations ahead of this massive match.

“We can either be here next week, at Sandy Park (in England) or off. That's a stark grounder and shows the nature of this knockout competition.

“There's a dream of playing knockout rugby here (this week) and (possibly) next week. It's in our hands to be amongst the top eight in Europe and South Africa.

“Harlequins are a good team, there are two international props.

“There's the English axis at halfback with (centre) Andre Esterhuizen who was the Players' Player of the Season in the Premiership last season. So there's a couple of reasons to keep the expectations in check.”

Lock Ruben van Heerden is not eligible for the Stormers for this match. He is cup-tied for the rest of the season as he played for Exeter in the group stages.

Van Heerden has been in excellent form for the Stormers since joining on a short-term contract, however they will be able to fill his boots.

Ernst van Rhyn, a versatile loose forward, is set to slot into the lock position after making his return from injury recently.

“Ruben's absence won't be a loss for us. We have prepared for it. We knew about it since when we signed him.

“He initially came here on a shortterm contract, but he was always cup-tied because he played for Exeter against the Bulls and Castres.

“We've signed him long-term now, which is brilliant but we knew he could not play Heineken Cup games.”

Dobson will announce his team tomorrow.