John Dobson says the Stormers are already looking forward to a “classic” north-south derby against the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers retained first place in the South African Shield by claiming a bonus-point win over a powered-up Ospreys on Saturday night.
However, up next for the men from the Cape is a home match against their old rivals. The Bulls struggled during the local derby phase of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship – losing home and away to the Sharks and at home to the Stormers – but have recently put together an excellent run of form against overseas opponents.
Playing far more expansively than what they are known for, the Bulls grabbed convincing wins over Munster, Zebre, Scarlets, Dragons and Ulster. In the latter four of those fixtures, Jake White’s team managed to score at least 30 points.
The last clash between these two teams went down to the wire, as the Stormers scored a 76th-minute try to snatch a victory from the Bulls, despite originally surrendering an 18-point lead built in the first half.
“I think it’s going to be a great game of rugby. They are definitely playing a slightly more expansive game. But still, they have a really big and direct pack of forwards,” Dobson said.
“Hopefully, it’s going to be a classic. We are thrilled, when people have written about us for the last couple of years, there was the Sharks and the Bulls and we were also-rans. We seem to be in touching distance, points-wise on the log, so we are looking forward to it. ”
The Stormers are only one point ahead of the Bulls on the URC table and just two points in front of the Sharks, meaning that any slip-up could result in a steep drop down the log. The tight nature of the standings owes itself to the local teams recovering from a dismal start to the competition to win 15 of 16 matches against European teams – the Sharks defeat by Edinburgh at Kings Park proving to be the only loss in the past four rounds.
While next Saturday’s game will be decisive in terms of the South African Shield and old rivalries renewed, Dobson added that it is for the greater good of South African rugby that as many local teams as possible finish in the top-eight playoff places.
“In terms of winning the conference, it’s a huge game next week. The Sharks won comfortably on Friday night and the Bulls won today [Saturday]. If we had lost, we would have dropped down to third in the conference. It really is very tight.
“Listen, I think it’s good for the competition and good for South African rugby. Sometimes, even with our legacy of provincialism, we should be thrilled. The more South African teams in that top tier, the better. We mustn’t be like crabs and hope the Bulls or Sharks lose.
“It’s going to be a cracker, we are looking forward to it.”
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images