Stormers coach Dobson laments URC postponements

03 December 2021 - 15:37
By Liam Del Carme
Stormers coach John Dobson has lamented the postponement of United Rugby Championship matches.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi Stormers coach John Dobson has lamented the postponement of United Rugby Championship matches.

Stormers coach John Dobson added his voice to the chorus of frustration at the postponement of last weekend's United Rugby Championship (URC) clashes in SA.

With the UK and EU imposing fresh travel bans on SA, last weekend's four clashes against teams from those territories were postponed. Those teams, however, could not return home timeously especially after positive Covid-19 cases were confirmed in their ranks. Cardiff, in fact, were still in the country on Friday.

Rugby folk were left with the overwhelming sense the matches could have taken place given the delays that ensued in getting those teams home.

“That is a point that has dominated the change room and back room chats over the last week,” said Dobson. “If teams are still here on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday wouldn't it have been great for the integrity of the competition had they played?”

Searching for answers

“I wasn't party to the deeper reasons for why we couldn't play but on the surface everybody is asking me why we didn't play. We haven't really got an answer, we would have loved to play. We are playing tomorrow (Saturday) a week later after the new virus was detected,” said Dobson.

The SA teams have of course been pressed back into hastily arranged derby action and the Stormers can finally introduce a Springbok or two to the URC. For the purposes of Saturday's game against the Lions, Bok lock Marvin Orie and Blitzbok speedster Seabelo Senatla will make their first appearances in the URC.

Orie was on national duty for the first four matches of the competition, while speedster Senatla makes his return from injury.

Salmaan Moerat, who toured with the Boks in November without getting the opportunity to make his debut, is also back in the second row.

The rest of the forward pack are unchanged from the combination that started the 24-10 victory against the Dragons in Newport last month.

“There is great energy in the group. This is our last game of the year. We prepared really well. We got over the frustration of last week. We would have had a better indication of where we are in the rugby landscape had we played but that is out of our control.

“We prepared for a high tempo, attractive brand of rugby.”

Enthused by having fans

Dobson said that his team is determined to be at its best in its first home game of the campaign, which will have a limited crowd of 2,000 spectators in the stands in line with the government's Covid-19 protocols.

“It has been quite some time since we played in front of our faithful fans, so this will be a special occasion for the team and we want to put up a worthy performance.

“It is great to have some of our best players back in the mix and preparations have gone really well, so hopefully that translates onto the pitch on Saturday.”

All those attending will have to adhere to government regulations by wearing a medical mask and providing a Covid-19 vaccination document confirming full vaccination.

Those attending will also have to show a valid ID along with their match ticket to gain entry into Cape Town Stadium.

There will also be temperature checks and a verbal Covid-19 questionnaire for each spectator, with entry denied to anyone who does not comply with these regulations.

Match tickets will not be sold at the stadium.

Stormers team to play the Lions — Warrick Gelant; Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Dan du Plessis, Seabelo Senatla; Manie Libbok, Stefan Ungerer; Evan Roos, Willie Engelbrecht, Junior Pokomela; Marvin Orie, Salmaan Moerat (captain); Neethling Fouche, Scarra Ntubeni, Brok Harris. Substitutes: Andre-Hugo Venter, Kwenzo Blose, Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, Ernst van Rhyn, Nama Xaba; Godlen Masimla, Rikus Pretorius, Tim Swiel.