Stormers’ John Dobson: We didn’t see our defensive DNA against Sharks

Stormers head coach John Dobson is pictured before a Champions Cup match against Clermont

Stormers head coach John Dobson. Picture: Thierry Zoccolan / AFP

Published Feb 19, 2024


The Stormers want to sort out a few defensive gremlins ahead of their next United Rugby Championship (URC) clash against the Bulls and they have a couple of weeks to do that.

The inaugural URC winners continued their dominance of South African opponents, with the Stormers coming away from the Shark Tank with a 25-21 win on Saturday.

After dispatching a Springbok-laden Sharks side, the Capetonians now have Loftus Versfeld in their sights as they aim to go another season unbeaten over Jake White’s Bulls.

It was their ability to scramble on defence, especially in the second half, that saved them again after typical Stormers running rugby resulted in a couple of tries to break the home side in the first half.

Just like the Bulls, the Sharks have not triumphed over the Stormers yet in the URC. It’s only the Lions who have tasted victory over the former champions in an SA derby.

Although the performance pleased head coach John Dobson, there were still a few things for them to sort out, especially on defence, ahead of their game against the Bulls in two weeks.

“It’s nice to have that sort of depth, but I am still feeling a bit iffy about it (the win) because we didn’t see the Stormers’ defensive DNA,” Dobson said, as he lamented the tries scored against his side and their inability to enforce their defensive system on their opponents.

“We weren’t making the (defensive) reads, we didn’t get off the line, and I know why. Credit to the Sharks, they never stopped coming. Defensively we were off.

“Strategically and tactically it was good. There were some really good performances by some of the so-called second-string players. But we were lucky to get away with that one towards the end, that’s the truth.”

Inside centre Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu ran the show for the visitors in the first half with some deft kicks into space that put the Sharks’ defence under immense pressure.

Young flyhalf Jurie Matthee, up against Springbok Curwin Bosch, made the most of his chance and showed his skill with some neat touches, while he ran the ball strongly at the defence, and his kicking out of hand was good for most of the game.

Feinberg-Mngomezulu and midfield partner Suleiman Hartzenberg also kept the Bok combination of Francois Venter and Lukhanyo Am at bay for most of the game.

The outstanding performance came from captain Neethling Fouche, who kept World Cup winner Ox Nche honest at the scrums, while he also worked his behind off for 80 minutes getting across the field to make tackles.

He deservedly received the player-of-the-match accolade.

Fullback Warrick Gelant also looked like the attacking match winner of 2022 again.

He dazzled with his wizardry and offloaded a couple of times when there should not have been an offload. But his most crucial intervention came on his tryline when he stuck his head in a ruck to win a turnover penalty just as the Sharks looked to score.

Lock Ruben van Heerden, loosie Marcel Theunissen, and No 8 Hacjivah Dayimani were the other forwards who also put in a massive shift to help their team to victory.

Dobson says they have some selection headaches looking at the Bulls game.

“We have some guys coming back like Manie (Libbok, flyhalf), and Deon (Fourie, flanker). Loose forward is a challenge with someone like Willie Englebrecht. Salmaan (Moerat) provides another headache at lock. How do we fit in a guy like Sacha?

“If your second string does well, it becomes harder to manage the selection. Loose forward and lock is a bit tight for us. At prop, we are getting thin.”