Wed 21 Sep 2022 | 05:42

Stormers coach hints at eye-catching midfield combos for new season

Stormers coach hints at eye-catching midfield combos for new season
Wed 21 Sep 2022 | 05:42
Stormers coach hints at eye-catching midfield combos for new season
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SPOTLIGHT: Stormers head coach John Dobson is hoping Alapati Leiua will help him solve some midfield puzzles in the 2022/2023 season.

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The Samoan international has been brought in to bolster the depth in the squad.

However, more importantly, the 34-year-old is there to help nurture some of the younger midfielders in the squad.

With Ruhan Nel and Juan de Jongh injured and with Rikus Pretorius moving to Japan, Dobson will have some interesting choices to make in the midfield.

The opening rounds of the new United Rugby Championship season will be used to test combinations, but the Stormers coach has hinted at a combination he would like to see in the long term.

“We actually started the conversations with Alapati before we had the injuries to Ruhan and Juan,” said Dobson. “It was purely because of his playing ability.

“We were also struggling a bit with Dan du Plessis’s concussion.

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“What we are really excited about this season is our crop of youngsters. Somebody called it a ‘golden generation’ and two of them are potentially Sacha [Mngomezulu] at No.12 and Damian [Willemse] at No.13.

“To learn from Alapati would be great for them.

“Cape Town wants to see people who can offload and there are not many who are better than him.

“It fits our game model and then we got a specific brief to help bring these youngsters through and we are excited about that.”

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Dobson is hoping that Leiua can help bring the best out of Dan du Plessis as well.

Du Plessis always shows plenty of promise before he suffers some sort of long-term injury.

“A couple of months ago we were not sure Dan was going to play again,” Dobson admitted.

“That was a big loss for us.

“It’s not often we go to the market and search for foreign players. We just thought about combinations with Leiua at No.12 or with Ruhan or him at No.13 and with Dan at No.12.

“He [Leiua] could do both roles for us with no problem, but hopefully he will complement Dan.

“We didn’t buy another Dan du Plessis, so it could be a really good combination.”

Young guns

Someone who is in line to start in the Stormers’ URC opener in Stellenbosch against Connacht is Junior Springbok Suleiman Hartzenberg.

Hartzenberg, who was in the midfield with Du Plessis in the pre-season clash against the Sharks, has shown plenty of promise and his name is constantly mentioned along with Mngomezulu.

Dobson had plenty of praise for both players.

“I think he [Mngomezulu] has had an excellent pre-season. I think he grew with the SA Under-20s,” said the Stormers coach.

“For me, he is a Damian Willemse clone in terms of his professionalism, his physicality, offloading and his skillset.”

Dobson added: “I am so excited by Suleiman Hartzenberg, who will benefit from playing with Alapati.

“I haven’t seen a back with that strength, speed and step in a while.

“Those are some of the lesser-known guys that I am really excited about.”

@rugby365com

Photo: @THESTORMERS

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