subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Stormers director of rugby John Dobson admits he has to traverse a selection minefield in coming weeks as he heeds the demands of rotation and performance on potential both sides of the equator.

The visit to Cape Town Stadium of La Rochelle for their round of 16 Champions Cup clash on April 6 looms large, and it will require the home team to put their best foot forward in every sense.

The Stormers’ poor tour at the start of the United Rugby Championship (URC) continues to put them on the back foot as they cannot afford to rest key players in their hunt for a top-four finish.

Dobson admits their planning had become skewed as a result of those early setbacks as it has dragged much of the remainder of their URC campaign into “must win” waters.

“We know against La Rochelle we’d have to go absolute ‘full metal jacket’” he said about the clash with the Champions Cup holders. “We knew against Edinburgh we’d give a few guys some opportunities and next week something in between.”

Managing workloads, however, will have a significant impact on how far they go in the Champions Cup and the URC.

“Against La Rochelle we are going into a curious thing. We have to beat Ulster close to full strength. We’ll probably use it to get Connor [Evans], so that we have him and Adre [Smith] so the lockbox is ticked.

“We might need to give Sazi [Sandi] another game at some stage so that we know our tight head cover because against La Rochelle it is going to be ‘full metal jacket’.

“If we beat La Rochelle we may have to go play Leinster away, that’s like playing Ireland, which will be a helluva taxing thing and then come straight back to more URC.

“We could be playing Leicester here in a quarterfinal [Champions Cup] which will be brilliant or we could have a week off.

“We don’t have the luxury, given our log position, of rotating as much as we would normally like to.”

To make matters worse, Dobson has what he calls a crisis at loose head prop with Lizo Gqoboka rolling his ankle last weekend. He joins Sti Sithole, Ali Vermaak, Leon Lyons and Kwenzo Blose in the infirmary. The Stormers intend replenishing their stock from elsewhere.

Elsewhere, though, he is spoilt for choice. There is healthy competition for places among the Stormers outside backs.


“It is very tricky,” Dobson conceded. “Wandi [Simelane] was great. You’ve got to keep Suleiman [Hartzenberg] in the team, Ben Loader we are thrilled with, Warrick [Gelant] is coming back. It is tomorrow’s problem.”

As perhaps expected, Simelane is gradually finding the Stormers environment one in which he can operate in effectively. “We thought hard about playing him there [against the Bulls at Loftus] against his old team and Dan [du Plessis] not really being a 13, we might have made a mistake there. Wandi is going to be special.

“One thing you don’t have to worry about is his defence. He understands our system completely.”

Before they take on La Rochelle the Stormers this week have to get past Ulster who are also gunning for a top four spot.

Though he believes the win over Edinburgh could be a catalyst for greater things, Stormers captain Salmaan Moerat was clear-minded enough to recognise the threat Ulster will pose this weekend.

“The most important thing now is to be consistent. To nail our detail down. To be consistent in the areas of the game that make us tick.

“Ulster is a quality side. Kitsie [Steven Kitshoff] will be coming home, it is going to be really special. We are looking forward to that.”

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.