Stormers coach John Dobson is confident that they have managed to retain the majority of their Springboks for next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers have been involved in their pre-season preparations for next year’s Super Rugby season since early October. The reason for their early start is that Super Rugby will kick off on the final weekend of January next year.
With the Springboks still recovering from their World Cup exploits, the squad that assembled at the training ground this week was a young one, made up mostly of the U21 team and seniors who did not sign a loan deal overseas.
Given the financial issues that have dogged Western Province Rugby for so long, there have been concerns over how many Springbok players the union would be able to retain. Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) and Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) have already signed deals with overseas-based teams.
However, Dobson was confident that most of their Springboks would stay for next season, with an announcement about contract renewals set to be made in early December.
‘The vast majority,’ Dobson said when asked how many of their Springboks the Stormers have retained. ‘You have probably heard that Eben Etzebeth is going to Toulon. Damian de Allende has already signed in Japan. We will make an announcement but with the rest we are good.’
Dobson said that next season’s calendar is going to make it difficult to get the Springbok players ready in time to run out on 1 February against the Hurricanes.
‘They were going to return on 2 December, with the exception of Pieter-Steph, whose body is a bit sore. That was agreed when we did the contracts. But after they spent a week on a bus, we may just be pushing that back a week or two. They definitely won’t be at our training camp.
‘I think six or seven of the first nine games are at home. From a business point of view and from a public-expectation and log point of view, we need to win those games because we only tour very late. So, we can’t run out at Newlands without Pieter-Steph or Siya in those games. We need those wins. So we can’t give a luxury of a late start like the New Zealand teams. We have to get momentum early. So it is going to be a management issue of getting them back into rugby and conditioned over Christmas.
‘Two weeks doesn’t sound significant, but it is a big difference. Suddenly the Marvel Day comes up on 19 January. How you get guys ready to get knocked over and smashed on 19 January when they are only back on 6 January is a challenge.’
Dobson confirmed that Siya Kolisi will retain the captaincy from last season, but added that with the pressures and expectations of the Bok captain, they may talk about letting him sit out one or two games next year.
‘Siya will be the skipper. We are going to have to manage him. I don’t want to be overly naive. We have to get momentum early in this competition so when we go on tour there is less pressure on us. Maybe, that could be the window where, if things go well, guys can get a bit of a break.
‘We tried to have a chat last week. I thought to rather let things settle. That is a conversation with him. Maybe on the odd week, or something like that. Because Steven [Kitshoff] did a bloody good job as captain this year. It would be guided by Siya. I think that is the right way of doing things. He is the captain and the leader, but I shudder to think of the demands being made of him.’
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