Stormers’ Springboks must bring the heat to avoid cold day in hell against Zebre

The Stormers’ Springboks Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok attend a training session

The Stormers’ Springboks Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok attend a training session. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Dec 2, 2023


The good news for Stormers fans is that there is more chance of snow at Loftus Versfeld this afternoon than of their team losing a fifth match in a row when they host Zebre at Stellenbosch in the United Rugby Championship.

The Bulls and the Sharks are set to play in blazing heat and while that game should be a tight contest, expect the Stormers to vent their frustrations on the hapless Italians at the Danie Craven Stadium and run riot.

The Stormers have had their worst run – four successive defeats – since they lost five in a row in the 2014 edition of Super Rugby but back on home soil, and reinforced by some key Springboks, there will be only one winner and it is going to be by plenty.

The Capetonians thrive at home and their only defeat in their last five home games was in last season’s final to Munster. Also, the Stormers have won all three previous matches they have played at Danie Craven Stadium including a 55-7 win when Zebre visited there in March 2022.

This is the same Zebre team whose two-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt last week when the Lions smashed them 61-19 in Johannesburg.

The Italians are going to find the home team in a merciless mood and their captain, Neethling Fouche, warns that their spirits are soaring after the selection of World Cup winners Damian Willemse, Manie Libbok and Deon Fourie. Coach John Dobson also has loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani back from paternal leave.

“The four weeks overseas were character-building,” Fouche said. “But, having the Boks back plus a few more faces returning, that energy they bring rubs off on everyone.”

He added: “It’s like a mini-portrait of The Avengers that has returned now. We’ve got Brannas (Fourie), who is like Ant-man. He appears quite small, but he packs a big punch. Gaza (Willemse) has insane energy like Spider-man, he’s everywhere.

“Then you have Captain Cape Town, Manie Libbok, whose attention to detail is so on point. His ability to analyse the opposition just brings that confidence to the team.”

Given the four losses and the fact that the Stormers will soon be in Champions Cup action, there was never a question of bringing the Boks back off the bench. They need to get going fast, given that next week the Stormers are away to top English side Leicester.

“Zebre would’ve found that result against the Lions quite difficult. It’s tough for the teams coming from overseas to go and play against the Lions at altitude. It’s two different worlds,” assistant coach Dawie Snyman said.

“Zebre have done well at home, beating the Sharks and getting a draw. They are a tough team. We’ve analysed them and it’s not going to be a pushover. We are definitely not taking them lightly. We also need to get a bit of cohesion with our players. We need to find each other and gel.”


15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Neethling Fouche (captain), 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Kwenzo Blose.

Replacements: 16 Andre-hugo Venter, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Connor Evans, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Clayton Blommetjies, 23 Suleiman Hartzenberg.