John Dobson wants Stormers to mix cocktail of physicality, speed against Sharks

Stormers' head coach John Dobson

Stormers' head coach John Dobson. Photo: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP

Published Feb 14, 2024


Stormers coach John Dobson’s voice may have been a bit creaky yesterday, but he was upbeat about a “nice boost in resources” ahead of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against the Sharks in Durban.

Despite seeing his team go on a five-match winning streak across all competitions before their nearly month-long break, they will have some serious conundrums to solve at Kings Park (5.05pm kick-off).

The first revolves around the selection of the matchday 23. Springboks Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse and Deon Fourie are still out of the mix because of resting protocols – although Fourie is already back in training “because he didn’t want to stay at home” – but Bok tighthead Frans Malherbe is back in full training, although the Stormers must still decide what role he will play against the Sharks.

Others who have returned from injury are lock Salmaan Moerat, loose forward Evan Roos and inside back Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, while new recruit Wandisile Simelane has now featured in a few practice games and is ready to play.

A key element of Saturday’s Sharks clash and the build-up to the crunch Champions Cup last-16 encounter against La Rochelle in Cape Town on April 6 is ensuring that the strongest possible Stormers team will be primed for that match, while also creating depth in case of injuries.

“I sort of think in a funny way we got through that consistency in selection in those Champions Cup games and Christmas derbies,” Dobson said yesterday. “I feel that if we don’t start broadening the pool a little bit … then we could get caught short when we come to the play-offs.

“We could lose two hookers, and JJ Kotze’s last game was against UCT, which would be a problem for us. I don’t think it will be wholesale rotations, but there are certainly going to be tweaks over the next few weeks – just to increase our pool of guys for the play-offs.”

The immediate focus will be the Sharks in Durban, though.

The Durbanites are last on the URC log and may prioritise the Challenge Cup for the rest of the season, but there are still bragging rights – not to mention Springbok spots – to play for, so John Plumtree’s side will go all out to win in front of their fans.

The Capetonians are also chasing a home play-off, as they are currently seventh in the standings with 26 points, four behind the fourth-placed Bulls, who will face the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

“Our last URC game was against the Sharks, and we felt in that game that while we got away with it a few times, physically we were poor,” Dobson said. “… What we learnt from the back end of the European competitions is that we must generate faster ball, so we’ve got some plans around that and where we carry and how we present the ball to generate faster ball – that’s important for us. Then there was some work around the kicking game, protecting our catcher and things like that.

“But we’ve got to step up our physicality this week, generate faster ball and in the contestable game, protect our players.”


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