Stormers ready to unleash their Bok muscle on Sharks in wet Durban
Durban’s weather may force the Stormers to discard their drive to play a more expansive game and rely on their famed forward power against the Sharks this coming Saturday.
Having finally broken their Rainbow Cup duck against the Lions last week – with a rather fortuitous 39-37 win – the Cape Town franchise is determined to keep their momentum going.
However, the prospect of a cold and wet day could result in a brutal forward-orientated showdown – in stark contrast to their Round One encounter in Cape Town earlier this month.
The eight-try feast was played on a balmy autumn day, a luxury they are unlikely to have this time round.
The prediction for the prospects of rain is high and the temperature is unlikely to rise much above the mid teens.
This, according to Stormers coach John Dobson, is one of the main reasons he selected a very physical forward pack.
The return of locks John Schickerling (recovered from an ankle injury) and Marvin Orie (recovered from concussion), along with World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit gives the Stormers a far more formidable look.
Then there is the Springbok front row of captain Steven Kitshoff, Mbongeni Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe.
The big surprise is the selection of burly loose forward Willie Engelbrecht in the No.6 jersey – a position normally reserved for an openside flank in South Africa.
Along with Evan Roos at No.8 and the World Cup-winning Bok Du Toit at blindside, the Stormers’ pack do have a rather gargantuan look.
The Stormers coach said he has no doubt it will be a “physical” battle in Durban.
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“[The prospect of] rain will make it a bit tighter and Willie [Engelbrecht] is a physical player,” Dobson told a virtual media briefing.
“However, the main reason for the selection is that Willie has played at No.6 before and he is in the [Springbok] alignment camps and in the national frame.
“To leave him out of such a big game would be odd.
“Evan Roos has done really well at No.8 and has been great for us. Then there was Pieter-Steph [du Toit]. It was more a case of getting four into three,” he said of the fact that young Marcel Theunissen has lost out this week.
“I am pretty comfortable with what we have chosen,” Dobson said, adding: “Also, as I said, there is the physicality of it.”
Dobson also said they will not be scared to change their approach – from leaning towards an expansive game to a more brutal forward battle – if it is as wet as the pre-match predictions suggest.
“The conditions are going to affect the game,” the coach said, adding: “We have [in the Sharks] a team that kicks the most.
“We [the Stormers] have our own skillsets and a big pack.
“It will depend largely on the conditions.
“I don’t think we will get the same from then [as the last time we met].
“They [the Sharks] scored a couple of nice offloading tries [in the 33-30 win for the Durban team in Cape Town back on May 1].
“They put us under pressure and ran out of their 22.
“I don’t think the conditions will allow for the same type of game as last time.
“Our plan is to be equipped for both – the reasonable high-tempo, high ball-in-play game we produced the last three weeks, but also be able to work with the pack in the wet if we need to.”