John Dobson says it is likely that rookie Sacha Mngomezulu will be fielded in some capacity as the Stormers continue with a six-two split on the bench for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship semi-final against Ulster in Cape Town on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Mngomezulu was surprisingly named as the utility back on the bench for the URC quarter-final against Edinburgh last weekend. While the expectation was that he would come on to help close the game out, it happened that Rikus Pretorius lasted only two minutes in the match and Mngomezulu was thrown into the deep end in his Stormers debut, out of position at inside centre.
All things considered, the 20-year-old coped fairly well and provided a solid presence in midfield, making some big tackles before he pulled up with cramp late in the second half and had to be substituted.
His performance was good enough for Dobson to confirm that he will be involved in Saturday’s home semi-final against Ulster.
“He was very good,” Stormers coach Dobson told media on Wednesday. “It was tough because while he has played for us at junior level and two Currie Cup games at 10 or 15, I don’t think he’s even played 12 at school level and we threw him into that quarter-final at 12.
“His cramping was more because of the adrenaline. He’s been training and playing with the SA U20 side and can play plenty of minutes. The cramp was more because of the tension, it was a big occasion and he did well.
“He will be in the mix for this weekend, whether he will be starting or on the bench, we are not sure.”
With the Stormers currently experiencing something of an injury crisis at inside centre, it has been suggested that they turn away from the six-two split between forwards and backs on the bench in order to get an extra backline player.
However, while explaining why he favours the six-two split, Dobson said that he prefers to have like-for-like replacements for his forwards on the bench.
“The six-two split always has an element of a gamble. We are really lucky with those two scrumhalves. Paul de Wet and Godlen Masimla can play at URC level at wing. They are like Francois Hougaard. So, in a sense, you do have three backs because you don’t have to substitute the scrumhalf. It’s not as risky as people think, given that our scrumhalves can compete under the high ball and play at wing.
“My thinking is that as much as we are trying to push players like Steven, Marvin and Ruhan, we are trying to get like-for-like substitutions. That’s why we brought Nama back in.
“It’s the same with Sacha. He is a little Damian,” Dobson said. “He reminds me uncannily of Damian when he started in 2017 and 2018. He can play at 10 and 15, he is physical, has a great kicking game and is not scared. If we put an out-and-out centre on the bench, we would be stuck in other positions.
“So, it’s just like-for-like in terms of our thinking. Sacha did well enough to go again. If we do bring an out-and-out centre like Juan de Jongh, we still need that multi-cover with the six-two split. I am not changing the six forwards because it’s working for us.”
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 8, 2022
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images