Dobson remains positive despite Stormers’ run of URC losses
Squad play Cardiff Rugby on Friday in their last tour match
The defeat to United Rugby Championship (URC) champions Munster in Limerick at the weekend ended any hope of the Stormers returning from their four-match tour with the 50% success rate that was the minimum aim, but coach John Dobson is far from despondent.
The Stormers play Cardiff Rugby in Cardiff on Friday night in their last tour match and Dobson makes no bones about the fact they will be going out to get a full house of five log points in an attempt to minimise the damage of three consecutive tour defeats.
The Stormers lost at Arms Park in 2022, so he will be mindful of the need to win first, but he left little doubt that was the aim when he spoke to the media after his team’s 10-3 defeat at Limerick Park.
“The Cardiff game has become an incredibly important one for us and while I hate that term ‘must win’ as you go out to win every game you play, it is crucial for us to get the win,” Dobson said.
“If we pick up five points against Cardiff it will leave us with seven points from the tour.
“That is just one point less than two wins, which would be four points each, and while it would be less than what we would have liked, it will still leave us in a good position as we head back to SA.”
In saying that, Dobson is clearly mindful of the amount of jeopardy there has been in the competition in 2023, something that has made three consecutive defeats less damaging to the Stormers than might otherwise have been.
There is no unbeaten team left in the competition now that Glasgow Warriors have beaten Benetton, and it has meant the teams in the top 10 (the Stormers are now ninth) are all still fairly close together on the log.
The leaders, Leinster and Glasgow Warriors, are eight points clear of the 2021/2022 champion team and 2022’s beaten finalists, but one game can change that significantly, as the Bulls discovered when they lost to Edinburgh.
The Bulls were considered highflying a week ago and now they are just three points ahead, the point being not that the Stormers should be worrying about the Bulls but it showed how quickly things can be changed by one game when the Bulls dropped from first to seventh.
If the Stormers do pick up five points in Cardiff, and one of the two front-runners loses, the difference will be just three or four points again — and like the Bulls, the Stormers have a run of home games now to look forward to.
As it stands, the Christmas derbies against first the Bulls (December 23) and then the Sharks (December 30) could prove season-defining for the Stormers if they win the two games they play before that.
Their first post-tour home game will be against Zebre on December 2 and then they switch to the Champions Cup in the gap between then and the Bulls game.
The Stormers will not want to be too far behind the Bulls when they play in Cape Town two days before Christmas.
Though the overall log positions aren’t relevant to the Shield any more, as that is now decided only on the derby games, they are relevant to the Stormers’ chances of making it into the top four and securing another home playoff.
The three games they have lost in the opening five rounds is just one less than they lost in the whole of last season.
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