Cape Town - Not only did the Stormers have to endure an extended journey to Scotland – with a 50-hour-plus trip for some players – but now they have to face a Glasgow Warriors side in the middle of this afternoon under floodlights.
Yes, it will be a 3pm kick-off local time (5pm SA time) at Scotstoun Stadium today, but it will be dark already at the height of the UK winter.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, rain has been forecast from mid-morning, with a 60 percent prediction when the second half starts… and it’s on a 4G pitch!
And we haven’t even got to the actual rugby side of it. Glasgow are on a five-match unbeaten run, and started the weekend in a logjam on 29 points alongside the Sharks and Benetton, so they will be determined to stay in the United Rugby Championship top eight and the play-off race.
“It’s just so different. I know it works the other way when the opposition come to us, but we trained at 10 past three with the full floodlights on – otherwise it’s dark! It was raining, and I think Hacjivah (Dayimani) would have gone to sleep last night (happy) with his decision not to come to Glasgow,” Stormers coach John Dobson said this week.
“It is tough. The 4G is slippery, so it was great that they let us onto the field – great for people like Blomme (Clayton Blommetjies), Manie (Libbok) and Gaza (Damian Willemse) to understand the light line in those conditions, as we will play a three o’clock kick-off in the dark!
“We also had to accelerate the group who were visibly irritated and tired by the length of that travel, so it was a great way to flush that out and focus on the task at hand.”
Dobson was also visibly irritated when he was asked about a “hoodoo” of battling to win in wet conditions in Europe this season, considering the 16-16 draw with the Ospreys, 30-24 loss to Cardiff and the 24-14 defeat to Clermont.
But as he answered the questioned, he realised that the Capetonians need to fix those errors that have stopped them from winning those games.
And with wet conditions expected today again, this resilient Stormers side need to make sure of their execution on attack in particular.
“We do need to get better… Those are teams we should beat, with respect. The fact that we lost to them away means there’s something we are not getting quite spot-on. I don’t think we appreciate how big a difference the 4G pitch is: what it can do to your game and your ball control. We need to be better in those conditions, because we can’t allow that to cost us games that we feel we should be good enough to win,” Dobson said.
“We’ve got some plans about how we maybe vary our attack and kicking game a little bit to suit the rain and the 4G pitch to close these games out.
“We expect them (Glasgow) to play a multi-phase game. They keep the ball in hand, and Franco (Smith, Warriors coach) was like that at the Cheetahs – they did that very successfully, and it forces you, under pressure, to get rid of your line-speed by taking the ball through phases.
“We also know that Ali Price has a great all-round kicking game, so we are expecting contestables in that weather, which Clayton, Gaza and Manie are going to have to handle.
“We are not going to change our plan fundamentally. With Damian at 12, we have the option to force them into exit cycles, and that will allow us to counter-attack, which is always part of our plan.
“There’s got to be an element of sensibility about it, in terms of offloading. On a 4G pitch, the ball bounces a bit differently… It won’t change how we play or any of our set-ups, but there may be a higher level of responsibility when we’ve got the ball.
“It is going to be a really hard away game. But we looked at that first half against Clermont, and we certainly have it within us to beat Glasgow here – and I think we have to.”
15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg 13 Dan du Plessis 12 Damian Willemse 11 Leolin Zas 10 Manie Libbok 9 Paul de Wet 8 Hacjivah Dayimani 7 Willie Engelbrecht 6 Deon Fourie 5 Marvin Orie 4 Ben-Jason Dixon 3 Neethling Fouche 2 Joseph Dweba 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Bench: 16 JJ Kotze 17 Brok Harris 18 Sazi Sandi 19 Connor Evans 20 Junior Pokomela 21 Marcel Theunissen 22 Imad Khan 23 Angelo Davids.