Stormers search for solution at outside centre ahead of next week’s clash in Durban

Stormers' head coach John Dobson

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

Published Feb 7, 2024


The Stormers have a big midfield conundrum ahead of their next week’s United Rugby Championship (URC) match against the Sharks in Durban.

They have not been able to consistently field the same midfield combination for consecutive games this season, hamstrung by injuries to key players.

With Ruhan Nel out with a longterm injury, a partner for inside centre Dan du Plessis is needed for the second half of the season. At the start of the new campaign, Du Plessis struggled with an injury, and Nel had to partner up with other players.

The Stormers coaches do have utility backs Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Suleiman Hartzenberg at their disposal to fill the vacant slot at outside centre, with the latest recruit, Wandisile Simelane, also ready for action. But it’s doubtful that head coach John Dobson will throw the former Bulls player straight into the deep end. Instead, he could make his debut off the bench.

And with an inexperienced flyhalf expected to slot in for the resting Manie Libbok, the wise decision would probably be to keep Du Plessis in the No 12 jersey to provide some stability and seniority in the midfield.

That will likely open the door for the young Hartzenberg to pull on the outside centre jersey again. He has been excellent on the wing, especially under high balls, but his defensive reads and strike-running abilities could prove vital in midfield.

The other option is to shift Du Plessis to outside centre and create a new partnership for the season between him and the promising Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

At the start of the season, the 21-year-old was in red-hot form before his campaign was curbed by injury. He is back at training and available for the Kings Park clash. If the Stormers opt for this route, they will have an inexperienced 10-12 axis with another youngster, Jurie Matthee, poised to take the flyhalf spot.

The good thing is that the Stormers coaches have empowered the players to slot in whenever and wherever they are required, and it won’t be too tricky to navigate this midfield conundrum.

It’s a crucial stage for the Cape side in their URC season, with some tough away and home games waiting as they hope to make the play-offs while building their player capacity in different positions.


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