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Despite injury curveballs, John Dobson says ‘resilient’ Stormers will be ready for Bulls

Rhodri Williams of Dragons RFC and Hacjivah Dayimani of DHL Stormers compete for the ball during the United Rugby Championship match, at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

Rhodri Williams of Dragons RFC and Hacjivah Dayimani of DHL Stormers compete for the ball during the United Rugby Championship match, at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, 3 Dec 2022. Picture: Steve Haag Sports/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Dec 20, 2022


Cape Town - Despite some devastating injuries and a stop-start performance against London Irish, Stormers coach John Dobson is adamant that his team will “stand up” for Friday’s United Rugby Championship showdown against the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium (7.15pm kickoff).

The Cape side were far from their best in Saturday’s 34-14 Champions Cup victory over the English visitors, with their lack of precision on attack a major issue on the night.

The Stormers dominated territory and possession, but led by just 10-0 at halftime as they battled to find their rhythm on attack, while their lineout was not functioning properly either.

They had to negotiate a tough final quarter as Irish surged back and made things uncomfortable, although Junior Pokomela’s touchdown off a driving maul secured the coveted four-try bonus point.

But injuries to lock Salmaan Moerat (knee), centre Ruhan Nel (calf) and wing Leolin Zas (calf) were significant blows in disrupting their attack and defence, and the trio are unlikely to face the Bulls either – with Dobson saying Moerat’s problem was “serious”.

In contrast, Jake White will be bringing a full-strength Bulls side to the Mother City after resting them for their two Champions Cup games against Lyon and Exeter Chiefs.

“Clearly they are focusing quite a lot on this game, and they obviously remember what happened here a few months ago. So, there’s no doubt what they’re about,” Dobson said.

“But we’re excited and we’re fighters, and no matter what the curveballs are from the injuries, it’s what makes us the Stormers – we are resilient, we will talk a lot about it during the week, and we will stand up next week.

“It’s going to be a great game for South African rugby, and they are obviously clearly focusing on this game. Great derby – it’s going to be… Ticket sales are great, so I am looking forward to it very much.”

The Stormers mentor expects centre Dan du Plessis and utility back Alapati Leiua to return from injury against the Bulls, and there is a chance that powerful No 8 Evan Roos could also be back.

But whoever fronts up against the Pretoria outfit – whose under-strength side lost 44-14 to Exeter on Saturday – they will need to solve their lineout issues, while also fixing their finishing.

The Stormers could have wrapped up the bonus point in the first half already, but handling errors and decision-making hampered their efforts on attack.

Hacjivah Dayimani was the stand-out with his running and stepping skills, and the No 8 was the deserved Man of the Match, while blindside flank Willie Engelbrecht wasn’t far behind.

But the execution was lacking from the backline especially, and it is something that needs to be sorted out this week.

“If I had to give you an answer to (why that happened), I’d be guessing – I really don’t know. It was a bit worrying today… It wasn’t our best in that respect. We gave them a lot of scrum feeds, which is tiring and takes a lot out of our pack,” Dobson said.

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“In that Rassie (Erasmus) documentary, he talked about when he was small, he had to find a different way. Hacjivah’s doing exactly the same things Evan does for us, but in a different way – which is great. He is breaking games (open), getting over the advantage line. His kick-return is great.

“It is a pity that they (Dayimani and Roos) are not playing together, because they are the two sub-11-second 100m loose forwards, but he is doing a great job for us.”

Stormers holding cards close to their chest for URC clash against Bulls

Meanwhile, Springbok stalwart Pieter-Steph du Toit could be on his way back to the Stormers sometime next year, according to Sunday newspaper Rapport.

Du Toit’s contract with Japanese club Toyota Verblitz is understood to be completed at the end of May 2023, and a third party could assist to pay his salary as most SA teams have already planned their budgets for the next two years.