Cape Town – Stormers coach John Dobson bemoaned the wasted opportunities on attack, saying “we should have finished that game by half-time” as he contemplated a mounting injury list following the 34-14 Champions Cup victory over London Irish on Saturday night.
The latest casualties are lock Salmaan Moerat (knee), centre Ruhan Nel (calf) and wing Leolin Zas (calf), which added to the disruption to the rhythm with ball-in-hand and in defence at Cape Town Stadium.
“If you remember Stormers days of past years, there always seems to be one position (where there are several injuries). I remember flyhalf, where Demetri Catrakilis and Kurt Coleman, and then we had a scrumhalf there and Dylon Frylinck came in. Now it feels like some of those big forwards (are all injured): Salmaan, Ernst (van Rhyn), Adre (Smith) … It was a good win, but it was expensive,” Dobson said.
“Salmaan is at the hospital now and is being scanned, and it’s a consequential injury. If you take out big forwards like Ernst, Salmaan …
“Ruhan Nel is being scanned now – I doubt he will play next week. Zassie as well. I can’t tell you the exact nature of the injuries. I was watching the scan of Ruhan Nel’s calf before I came here.
“Salmaan’s is a serious injury – he is at the Sports Science hospital, so I can’t give you the exact nature of his injury.
“Zassie is also a calf strain, and we have to wait. It is going to be tough with the short turnaround, so let’s see.
“But I am entirely confident that we are going to stand up next Friday night – of that there will be no doubt.”
Losing at least Moerat and Nel will be huge blows to the Cape side for next Friday’s United Rugby Championship (URC) derby against the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium (7.15pm kick-off), but on the plus side, Dobson is banking on centre Dan du Plessis and utility back Alapati Leiua being available again, and there is an outside chance of Evan Roos returning too.
“Hopefully Dan Dup’s back, Alapati hopefully back. We will see where Evan Roos is – I had a chat to him yesterday, and will have a look at him on Monday. Sacha (Feinberg-Mngomezulu) may be another week. Scarra (Ntubeni) was meant to warm up today, but he had a wedding – not his, I don’t think! Gary Porter is probably similar to Evan … I will check on him.”
The Stormers were relieved when flank Junior Pokomela grabbed the bonus-point try after the hooter, but their execution with ball-in-hand let them down in the first half especially, which saw them only 10-0 up at the break.
The line-outs were a mixed bag too, and the poor finishing and defensive errors saw London Irish mount a concerted comeback in the final quarter, until Pokomela dotted down from a driving maul.
“I don’t know how many bonus-point tries it is after the hooter now! Speaks to the character of the players. It was probably the most disappointing thing about last week, that we just faded away a little bit. A lot of people write about the second half, but I think we won that one 24-14 against a good team, London Irish. They were tough – the way they ran off nine, and I can see why they are so competitive in the Premiership,” Dobson said.
“Chatting to their coaches afterwards, they were disappointed they didn’t get a try towards the end there – when we came back for the push on Suleiman (Hartzenberg) after doing 11 phases – which is something completely understandable, as it could’ve been a really tight game.
“But the truth is that we should’ve resolved it in the first half. I can’t remember how many (chances were wasted on attack) … We actually had the best conversion rate in the URC when it comes to 22-metre entries, and it certainly wasn’t the case in the first half tonight.
“We should’ve finished that game by half-time – we probably would’ve still made it exciting!”
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.
Stormers 34 – Tries: Willie Engelbrecht, Hacjivah Dayimani, Leolin Zas, Junior Pokomela. Conversions: Manie Libbok (4). Penalties: Libbok (2).
London Irish 14 – Tries: Mike Willemse, Will Joseph. Conversions: Paddy Jackson (2).