Stormers sweating on Deon Fourie’s fitness ahead of ‘tough’ Connacht challenge

Deon Fourie of Stormers during the United Rugby Championship 2022/23 quarterfinal between the Stormers and Bulls at Cape Town Stadium

Deon Fourie of Stormers during the United Rugby Championship 2022/23 quarter-final against the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on 6 May 2023. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published May 8, 2023


Cape Town - The Stormers completed a fairly easy sweep over the Bulls in their United Rugby Championship quarter-final at the weekend, but are now bracing for a visit from “mongrels” Connacht in the semifinals at Cape Town Stadium this Saturday.

After they ran the Pretoria side off their feet, beating them 33-21, the Stormers are anticipating a far more fierce battle with the visiting Irish side who toppled Ulster on their way to the semis.

But the Stormers and their supporters will also hold their collective breath that flank Deon Fourie and a few other stars will be fit to run out this weekend in their bid to reach a second successive URC final.

Fourie, having just returned from a cheekbone injury, played for just under 50 minutes on Saturday before being withdrawn with a hamstring injury.

The Stormers beat the Bulls 33-21 and completed a sixth straight victory over Jake White’s team.

For Stormers coach John Dobson it was a sweet victory over their arch-rivals, but the injury to Fourie and other niggles, will have him tossing and turning for a few days ahead of the semi-final (4pm kick-off).

Fourie, who made a massive contribution against the Bulls, especially at the breakdown, walked off while rubbing his left quad every few steps.

Then there’s Springbok lock Marvin Orie who hurt his shoulder, he was instrumental in the lineouts and on defence, while centre Dan du Plessis took a knock to the head. Du Plessis played on though and should be fine.

Wing Leolin Zas was withdrawn as well, but just as a precautionary as he had only returned from a long injury lay-off and the Stormers were wary of overplaying him.

All four players made a massive contribution in the win over the Bulls and are vital cogs in the well-oiled Stormers machine.

“We’ve got a couple of niggles that we have to get our head around and that’s potentially a threat for this week,” Dobson said.

“Deon got a little hamstring tweak so he came off a bit earlier and we were just worried about re-injuring Zassy (Zas). They are great presences on the field.

“Marvin over the last few weeks has been very good, he has a bit of a sore shoulder.”

Despite the worrying niggles, the Stormers are looking forward to their meeting with the Irish club.

Dobson is hopeful that the team can pull another 40 000-plus crowd in what will most likely be captain and stalwart Steven Kitshoff’s final match in a Stormers jersey at Cape Town Stadium.

The home team are preparing for a proper dogfight from Connacht especially after they beat fellow Irish side and the more fancied Ulster to advance to the semis.

And although the almost capacity crowd was treated to some brilliant running rugby, the defending champions are aware that they might have to go to the trenches with their Irish opponents if they want to win this Saturday.

But, that doesn’t mean magic from the likes of flyhalf Manie Libbok and fullback Damian Willemse will take a backseat.

Libbok was instrumental in setting up a few tries with his unpredictable play on attack, while his kicking off the tee was spotless at a time when he really needed to step up to the task.

“They are tough opposition. With respect to Connacht, a team that has crossed the equator is useful opposition rather than somebody flying down from up country or Durban,” Dobson said.

“We can feel confident. But there is something there that is really worrying. They fight, and their attack shape is really good. The way they took Ulster apart at the breakdown was good.

“Like Seabelo (Senatla) always says, ‘we got dog’ (referring to the fight in the Stormers team); they have that ‘dog’ in them. Connacht is a great story, to do what they are doing with the smallest budget. They don’t go away and Ulster saw that (on Friday).

“They are perhaps going to be much tougher opposition than we think.

“They have a helluva lot of mongrel in them.”


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