Playing against a fairly depleted Cardiff team that is coming off a loss against the Lions, with his own side in good form, makes Sunday’s clash in Cape Town a banana-skin game, but Stormers coach John Dobson is wary of being on the end of an upset against the Welsh side. DYLAN JACK reports.
Following a nine-try victory over Italian outfit Zebre in Stellenbosch, the Stormers are back at Cape Town Stadium on Sunday for a Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against Cardiff.
The team from the Welsh capital suffered a 37-20 loss to the Lions this past Sunday in a game where they threatened a comeback at altitude, scoring tries either side of half time.
Given the Lions had not won a game at home all season, many would be backing the Stormers to also get a bonus-point win over Cardiff this weekend, especially as the visitors will be without a further four players due to injuries suffered at Ellis Park.
However, Dobson said it won’t be that simple and the Stormers have kept their feet firmly grounded this week.
“It is a banana skin because people are going to expect us to win it again. We have been quite obssessed over the past while with improving ourselves. I think people have seen the growth in the Stormers and that’s going to be our challenge.
“I honestly do believe the team has planted, among themselves, the desire to get better. We spoke this week about closing the gap from where we wanted to be against Zebre and where we were. We are going to judge ourselves on how we close that gap of where we want to be in certain areas.
“The point is taken about injuries and they have a few Welsh internationals. I saw them beat the Sharks live in Cardiff in October and know what a well-organised team they are. At Ellis Park, it took a while for the Lions to get those points to close the game off. It’s quite an achievement to come from behind and be so competitive at Ellis Park. We are well aware of their threat.”
Despite putting nine tries past Zebre in a comfortable win, Dobson explained that there were a few areas of improvement for the team to target this weekend.
“Obviously, against Zebre we wanted a good start, we wanted to play with some real intensity early on and try to take the emotion out of it. We got that bit right. It’s the same this week, not so much in terms of emotion, but with the intensity and physicality we want to play with.
“There were three or four areas against Zebre where we thought there was room for improvement. There was an element that we got seduced by the scoreboard, going 21-0 up in 15 minutes and passed a bit too much when we should have been more direct.”
Prior to the European teams travelling to South Africa, Dobson was bullish on the local teams’ chances for bonus-point wins.
However, after watching the latest round of fixtures, where the Sharks, Vodacom Bulls and Lions all had periods where they struggled in their respective matches, Dobson said his view has changed.
“What did surprise me last week, and credit to them, is Munster and Cardiff’s second-half performances. I always felt that if those late November/early December games had gone ahead – we spent that whole period panicking because it looked dreadful for South African rugby to have so many teams at the bottom of the log – if we had those games then we would have got 10 points and been mid-table and it would have looked a lot better.
“It does concern me in a sense about how good they were in those second halves. But it will be 32 degrees here in Cape Town on Sunday and with us playing that rugby that we are playing, it’s going to be tough for them in terms of the intensity.
“I do expect the South African teams to do well, but maybe I have tempered that based on last week, when I was saying give every team five points, a rhythmic filling of your boots. I do suspect there will be an upset or two with the quality of teams out here, hopefully it’s not us on the receiving end.”
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