Stormers shot their own feet but it’s not all doom and gloom

rugby10 June 2024 08:42
By:Gavin Rich
article image
Dan du Plessis © Gallo Images

There are no losing bonus points in playoff games and the winner goes through to the next round regardless of the margin so it didn’t improve the humour of DHL Stormers coach John Dobson when an attempt was made to console him with a reminder that the losing margin wasn’t a reflection of the game.

The Stormers lost their Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarterfinal 27-10 to the Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun, but with a few minutes to go the Stormers were trailing just 13-10 and had done a lot of attacking in the second half. Had flyhalf Manie Libbok had his place-kicking boots laced on, the Stormers would have been in the lead.

But they ended up conceding a scrum penalty that they rightly felt should have been awarded to them. Instead of being on the attack with six minutes to go and pressing for the winner, they had to make the play from their own half. They ended up conceding a maul try and then in the final move of the game an attempt to keep the ball behind their tryline gifted Glasgow another try that further inflated the end score.

If you just look at that final score, you’d wonder what Dobson was talking about when he said he was pleased with the fight his team showed.

“I’m pleased with the growth, in terms of getting experience, keeping the squad together, playing an away playoff despite the result in these conditions. The conditions were really tough tonight, but we showed a lot of fight,” said Dobson.


Indeed, factor in the withdrawal of Evan Roos, the Stormers’ most influential player, in the buildup to the game because of a concussion sustained in training, and the result shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected. With Roos, who tops so many relevant statistics, including try scoring, in the team they’d have stood a good chance. Once it was known he was out with concussion, the Stormers’ chances dropped significantly.

The Stormers were already missing their ace fetcher Deon Fourie, who has been out since the round of 16 Investec Champions Cup game against La Rochelle, and their ace World Cup winning Springbok back Damian Willemse.

Throw in first choice outside centre Ruhan Nel, plus a few others, and Dobson has reason to feel pleased with the depth that has been developed, because in the end the Stormers weren’t that far away from winning at a venue where no visiting team has won in the URC this season.

“It didn’t feel like a 27-10 game, but by the end, when we conceded those tries, we were chasing it,” he said.


Dobson also agreed that it was a game where his men conspired against themselves, something he hopes they will learn from. In addition to Libbok missing 10 points from the tee, which would have put the Stormers in front in those last minutes rather than in a chasing position, there were also some soft moments that unfortunately have become common, like the dropped ball and sequence of missed tackles after the restart that allowed Glasgow to bounce back with a try after their own just after the Stormers’ first score on the hour mark.

The Stormers had been pleased to be heading to Scotland in summer rather than in the depths of winter, like their previous visits to the Scotstoun, but in the end it might has well have been winter as they had a treacherous wind to deal with as well as a damp ball due to rain that fell before and during the game.

That’s not to say that the Stormers still battle to play in the northern hemisphere, because they had won four games (including the friendly against newly crowned Gallagher Premiership champs Northampton Saints) on the trot before the quarterfinal, but Dobson is right when he says they didn’t use the conditions as effectively as Glasgow did.

“They were much more effective into the wind than we were. In these conditions, you need to be really good into the wind. We didn’t kick particularly well. We also didn’t play particularly well with the wind. But you can’t fault our physical effort or our staying in the fight.”


Dobson said that Sacha Feinberg Mngomezulu, who was replaced just after he’d provided a key assist in the creation of the first Stormers try, had gone off because he was cramping. Otherwise he would not have been taken off given Libbok’s repeated failures from the kicking tee.

“We would have made the change in kicker then had Sacha been on the field, but Sacha was cramping from around the 45th minute, which was disappointing. Unfortunately we had no choice but to take him off,” said the Stormers coach.

Feinberg-Mngomezulu, should he find a place in the team somewhere other than flyhalf and thus plays at the same time as Libbok, should surely be considered for the role of first choice goalkicker going forward. As he showed in some of the Stormers games earlier in the season, he can kick them over from anywhere on the field and doesn’t have the erraticism of Libbok when it comes to going for posts.


Both players are of course on the Stormers books for the next three seasons, so Dobson will need to find a way of accommodating both in big games - provided of course the time doesn't arrive, which it could, that Feinberg-Mngomezulu's claims for the No 10 jersey ahead of Libbok don't become too strong.

If Dobson was looking for something to console him on Saturday night it would be that, the depth of talented players that have been developed in key positions, that would do the trick

“We haven’t been as fluid as we were in the first two seasons. But we were 13th after the November tour and we came back and finished fifth and we were in the fight here. So we belong at the top table of the URC. It was important to confirm that. We aren’t just a flash in the pan.

Going to two finals and then finishing fifth this season proved that.

“Not many teams could take out Evan Roos, Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie – they are world-class players – and win. We showed character playing without them. It gives me hope for this group.”

Of course, the Stormers goes much deeper than that, with other players missing for much of the later part of the season being Nel, Leolin Zas, Hendre Stassen (who a lot is expected of going forward), a host of props, reserve fullback Clayton Blommetjies, No 8 Keke Morabe. Next year Steven Kitshoff will be returning, and so will JD Schickerling, thus bolstering both the front row and second row resources. Seabelo Senatla is expected back from his injuries next year too.

It has been reported that Nama Xaba might be heading to the Bulls (along with scrumhalf Paul de Wet) so Dobson might need to be on the look out for a specialist fetcher to back up Fourie, who is sorely missed when he is not there. A lot could depend on whether Dobson feels if 21-year-old Paul de Villiers, who is built like former Bok openside Heinrich Brussow, is ready for that role or suited to it at the higher level.

If De Wet leaves, it could be time for the Stormers to call up Imad Khan, a precociously talented youngster who has played for SA under-20 that many have high hopes for.


That is the thing about the Stormers, there are always young players coming through in the region, and let’s not forget that you can add Jurie Matthee, who also looks like he has a bright future, to the list of really promising flyhalves at the franchise.

“It’s brilliant. It gives me hope that we can get towards having two squads. We are still way off that, but we are a lot closer than we were at the beginning of the season,” said Dobson.

On the eve of the quarterfinal Dobson told the media that, if you factor in the return of Kitshoff and Schickerling, he could easily name an alternative team including the injured Roos and Fourie etc that people would be prepared to pay good money to watch play against the team that was on duty in Glasgow.

That is the future, though, for the present the Stormers should feel aggrieved that they let slip a great chance of winning the game and they also need to work hard on several aspects of their game, a project which should be called “put away that shot-gun and stop riddling you own feet with holes”, before next season arrives.