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Stormers coach John Dobson. Picture: STEVE HAAG/GALLO IMAGES
Stormers coach John Dobson. Picture: STEVE HAAG/GALLO IMAGES

Though the Stormers showed great resolve and adaptability in beating Edinburgh 28-17 in their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarterfinal, inside centre may be the source of an ulcer for coach John Dobson ahead of Saturday’s semifinal against Ulster.

Damian Willemse was ruled out of the quarterfinal with an arm injury and his prognosis looks bleak, also in an international context of the Springboks playing Wales in July.

“It was confirmed that it is an injury that could take six weeks,” said Dobson. “It is one of those injuries that we want rescanned. He is really keen to play. I can’t see that happening.”

He said the leg injury that forced Rikus Pretorius off the field in the fourth minute of the quarterfinal looks serious. “The initial report was he broke his tibia. It’s not, but that was the first message. It doesn’t look nice at the moment and I’m sure he won’t play this week.”

I think [the SA teams] have been brilliant for the tournament. It’s added an extra layer of quality and just a different challenge.
Edinburgh coach Mike Blair

With Dan du Plessis having just returned to training after a long layoff, Dobson’s most likely choice next week will be Juan de Jongh, who has been on Currie Cup duty. That is likely to mean a shift to inside centre for Ruhan Nel to accommodate the Springbok.

Willemse’s loss, however, is huge for the Stormers, who would have wanted all hands on deck against Ulster. Though they pipped Ulster in Cape Town in their league match, the visitors would have left emboldened by the performance of an understrength team.

In fact, were it not for a few controversial decisions, Ulster may well have left Cape Town victorious.

“We were lucky,” Dobson. “I appreciate there will be an element of revenge to it. We will be better at handling the way they play. We learnt a lesson. We’ll be better for it.

“They trapped us in the one corner but we will be prepared for that. We have evolved since then.”

While Dobson seems confident of his team’s chances, the Stormers’ prospects were also talked up by Edinburgh coach Mike Blair. He believes they are made of the right stuff to go all the way in the URC.

“They string things together. When they do, I don’t think there’s a more dangerous team in terms of individuals. When they spark up and it connects, they can beat anyone,” the former Scotland international said.

Blair, in his maiden season as head coach at Edinburgh, believes the SA teams have been a credit to the competition. “I think they have been brilliant for the tournament. It’s added an extra layer of quality and a different challenge.

“Coming out here straight after the Six Nations was really difficult. Each SA team brings a different quality and a different challenge so it’s brilliant for the competition. It doesn’t make it any easier though.”


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