Stormers not going to run the ball at Connacht

Hacjivah Dayimani of the Stormers is tackled during a match against Zebre in the 2023 United Rugby Championship. | BackpagePix

Hacjivah Dayimani of the Stormers is tackled during a match against Zebre in the 2023 United Rugby Championship. | BackpagePix

Published May 18, 2024


THE equation is easy for the Stormers tonight in Galway: Win against Connacht and a place in the United Rugby Championship (URC) play-offs is secured; lose, and the derby against the Lions in two weeks will basically be a knock-out match.

The possibility of not making the quarter-finals this season should be all the motivation the Cape side needs to bag a first win over the Irish club at the Dexcom Stadium (kick-off 6.05pm).

While Stormers coach John Dobson only made three changes to the side that bagged a 44-21 win over the Dragons last week, they’re crucial changes that will bring an extra attacking dimension to the side.

Utility back Damian Willemse is at inside centre and rejoins Dan du Plessis in the midfield, while loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani is back at eighth man, suggesting a ball-in-hand approach will probably be used to counter Connacht. With Dayimani’s inclusion, hard man Evan Roos switches to openside flanker, with Ben-Jason Dixon at blindside flank. In the front row, Brok Harris replaces Sti Sithole in the only other change.

Unlike last weekend, the Stormers will have to be firing from the kick-off should they want to get past Connacht. The Dragons put up a massive defensive effort to nullify the attack of their opponents, and the Irishmen will look to do the same. And if the Stormers can’t find the upper hand in the scrums and provide a strong attacking platform, it could be a long day for the visitors.

What will assist their attack is the 4G pitch, and should they have that platform, it could turn out a good evening for the side.

“We really know how important this game is in setting us up for the quarter-finals,” Stormers captain Salmaan Moerat said yesterday.

“During the week we have spoken about going back home and playing the Lions with a bit more certainty. That game will then be all about who we play in the quarters. But our focus will be on getting the result. We have to control how we start. The crowd will be against us. We had some good preparation on a similar pitch. It is windy out here, but not something that we are not used to.”

According to Dobson, his side will come up against a really desperate Connacht, and looking at the challenge they will bring, alongside their crowd, his team must start better.

He added that they want more intensity, unlike what was the case against the Dragons.

“They know if they lose, they are out of the URC. We know we have to be intense and disciplined at the start of the match. They will come out frenzied and it can work in their favour or ours.

“Hacjivah made such a statement when he came on, and especially on a 4G pitch the plan will be to start quicker. It is not our intention to recklessly move the ball everywhere. It’s probably one of the most exposed and unusual stadiums in the competition. The wind, the crowd, the dog track around it. They have amazing fans.

“But it is not the kind of game where we will make the Connacht people think they got their money’s worth by running the ball. We have a job to do and this is our plan.”

Dobson added that they are well aware of the position in which they find themselves on the points table, and the team is sitting with a lot of what-ifs, like the tour at the start of the tournament and the unexpected loss to the Ospreys in Cape Town a couple of weeks ago.

“We are desperate, so are they. We want a top seven (place), and we want to finish as high as we can. It's a high-pressure game, make no mistake.”

Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Evan Roos, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Brok Harris.

Bench: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.