The decision to favour a six-two split on the bench will maximise the Stormers’ scrummaging power in the clash with the Blues on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Stormers are undefeated after four rounds and currently lead the overall Vodacom Super Rugby log. As coach John Dobson mentioned on Thursday, the Cape side needs one more victory to complete this part of their campaign with a perfect win record. The Stormers will enjoy a bye in round six, and some of the senior players will have an extended opportunity to recharge.
Dobson’s selections for the next game suggest that the Stormers will look to harness their strength up front, and particularly at the set pieces. The Stormers scrum has been in commanding form this season, and they will lose little by starting Wilco Louw ahead of World Cup-winner Frans Malherbe against the Blues.
Dobson has also opted to include a second tight five – and six forwards in all – on the bench. The Springboks enjoyed a lot of success with their ‘Bomb Squad’ at the 2019 World Cup. This season, we’ve seen a few South African franchises stacking their benches in a similar manner.
‘I’m not a big fan of the trend,’ Dobson said. ‘But this should allow us to maintain any dominance at the set piece over the course of the game. We can’t allow them any breathing room. We have to keep them under pressure in that area, and keep their dangerous backs on the back foot.
‘We’ve tried to be as consistent as possible with regard to our selections in this five-game period,’ he added. ‘We had a plan at the start of the season and so far we have stuck to it.’
The Stormers should fancy their chances against the Blues at the set pieces. The Kiwi side is currently ranked 13th in the tournament for scrum success and 10th at the lineout. They were hammered by the Bulls in a few scrums last week.
Loosehead prop Kwenzo Blose is set to make his Super Rugby debut this Saturday. Dobson is confident that the 22-year-old will make an impact in the latter stages of the contest.
‘He’s got an incredibly high work rate,’ the coach said. ‘We saw how well he scrummed against the Sharks in the pre-season match at Soccer City and we have high hopes for him this weekend.’
The Blues beat the Stormers 24-9 in Auckland last season. The Cape side has not lost to the Blues at Newlands, however, since 2009.
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