Weather smiles on Stormers as they bump physical Dragons

rugby09 May 2024 15:07
By:Gavin Rich
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Dawie Snyman © Gallo Images

The DHL Stormers’ hunch that they might find the conditions in Wales for Friday night’s crunch Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash with the Dragons more to their liking than when they were last there in November has been shown to be correct.

“The weather has been nice up until now and they are expecting good weather on Friday, which we are excited about. We must have brought it with us from Cape Town,” smiled skipper Salmaan Moerat after his coach John Dobson named a strong team for the Rodney Parade clash.

With the Dragons listing second last on the URC log, you might have thought the Stormers would mix and match their selections for this game, but assistant coach Dawie Snyman confirmed that the management had decided that the situation demanded the strongest available selection.

“Yes, it’s close to our strongest team, we have to get the result and we want to build a bit of cohesion going into these last few games,” said Snyman.

The one top player missing is Springbok World Cup winner Damian Willemse, but according to Snyman that was a decision made in selection but one dictated by circumstance.

“Damian had a personal matter he had to attend to and he only joined the team today. Obviously we can only select guys who are available to train,” said the Stormers assistant coach.

Great player though Willemse is, the Stormers are well covered in his absence, with Wandisile Simelane coming in at outside centre for his first overseas competitive game for the Stormers - he did play and do well in the friendly against Northampton two months ago - and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu back from injury and in the squad as a part of the bench.

“Sacha is back from injury and he brings a lot of energy and excitement, it is great to have him back as we head into this important part of the season. Although he is only on the bench this week he will have an important role to play in the game,” said Snyman.

Feinberg-Mngomezulu is one of three backs on the bench as the Stormers depart from their usual six/two split between forwards and backs, with Jean-Luc du Plessis making his first appearance in a Stormers jersey since being injured just before halftime in the December derby against the Vodacom Bulls.

“We have been training at very high standards so all the players who have been out for a while will be ready. Jean-Luc is a very competitive guy and has been training the best he has in his entire career. If we are in a crunch situation late in the game he is the perfect guy to have coming on for you.”

Moerat welcomed the return of Sti Sithole as the Stormers front row returns to full strength for the first time in quite a while.

“I am very happy for Sti, he was doing so well before he was injured and is one of our top players,” said the skipper.

“Brok (Harris) did a great job in his absence but with us having that crisis at loosehead it is good to have Sti back. He is a quality player. The props, and the pack as a whole, have instilled a great scrumming culture at the Stormers and Sti takes a lot of pride in scrum work. He brings experience and expertise and this game is going to have to be won by the tight five and the forwards in general. It is a key part of our game and one we want to excel at.”

The Stormers may have underestimated the Ospreys, another Welsh side, which may have contributed to a shock home loss a few weeks ago, but Moerat says there is no chance of that happening this time even though the Dragons are near the foot of the log.

“The Dragons are a quality side. Two years ago we had a really tough game against them, arguably one of the most physical games of the season. It is their last home game so they will be up for it. The URC in general has been such a competitive competition this year, there isn’t that much difference in the log positions in terms of points. They have some quality internationals but we are well prepared.”