John Dobson has praised the rise of locks Ruben van Heerden and Adre Smith as the DHL Stormers look to emerge from under a “dark cloud” this weekend.
The Stormers host Zebre Parma in round 7 of the Vodacom URC in Stellenbosch, after Dobson’s charges dropped to 12th on the standings with defeat at Cardiff last week, while the Italians were mauled by the Lions at Ellis Park in their opening match in the Republic.
It is the second home game of the season for the Capetonians, and the first after four successive losses on tour in Europe, with the inaugural URC champions eager to bounce back.
Speaking to the media this week, Dobson acknowledged the struggles for the Stormers overseas, yet highlighted the growth of Van Heerden and Smith as individuals and as a combination.
“Ruben won an internal honour and I mentioned to the team how hard he competes. You rarely get No 5 locks who can get in so physically and maintain a high performance,” the head coach told reporters.
“Adre has a lot of potential and we are now starting to see it. Against Munster he made 20 tackles after being sent on in Gary’s place. This pair is a silver lining around the dark cloud of our tour.”
Since moving to Cape Town from Premiership side Exeter Chiefs, Van Heerden has been a massive hit, and the former Vodacom Bulls and Sharks skyscraper is relishing his partnership with Smith.
“It’s nice when you have two locks who can shoulder open the door or play with ‘soft’ hands, guys who can move the piano, but can also play it. It’s rare that you have two such locks in your team at the same time,” he said.
“Adre and I now form a nice combination. He told me in the gym that I was the head boy and he was the bad boy! That’s the kind of combination we have now.
“The lineouts are a real team effort. It’s a unique facet. You have a guy who has to pick up the jumper right, a guy who has to throw in right and me who has to decide on the right target. All those things must go smoothly.
“I don’t think I can take all the credit for the good performance in the lineouts. It’s a team effort by the forwards.”
On the showdown with Zebre at Danie Craven Stadium, he added: “Currently we cannot underestimate anyone. We have landed ourselves in a place where we will be driving dirt roads for the rest of the season.
“However, we accept the challenge and now need to achieve a string of victories.”
Photo: Alfio Guarise/INPHO/Shutterstock