Stormers' short-term 'loss' could be a long-term gain
OPINION: The imminent departure of World Cup-winning Springbok Mbongeni Mbonambi to the Sharks may yet turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Stormers.
Weekend media reports parroted earlier whispers about Mbonambi, 30, joining his Bok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi in the Roc Nation Sports agency camp and moving to Durban.
He is still contracted to the Cape Town-based franchise till October and it seems unlikely he will also pay a ‘bailout’ – or early release – fee like Kolisi did.
However, a recent joint media briefing by Stormers coach John Dobson and Ebrahim Rasool, Chairman of Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd, had some clear indicators that contingency plans are already in place if Mbonambi and fellow World Cup winner Pieter-Steph du Toit do take up the well-documented offers to depart the Western Cape.
While neither – Mbonambi and Du Toit – have signed anything formal, it is becoming more apparent that external factors are pushing them closer to the edge.
Replacing a player of Du Toit’s caliber is never easy, but there is a supererogatory supply of loose forward talent in the Stormers pipeline.
In the case of the 36-times capped Mbonambi, the Stormers may well benefit from his departure.
Apart from what is in stock – recently re-signed one-cap Springbok Siyabonga Ntubeni, Chad Solomon, Jean-Jacques Kotze and promising University of Stellenbosch hooker Andre-Hugo Venter – there are a couple of options abroad that could add some bona fide gilt-edged quality to the Stormers.
It has been reported previously by @rugby365com that the Stormers are keen on luring Joseph Dweba back from French club Bordeaux Bègles.
The long-shot move has not progressed much in recent weeks, suggesting the 25-year-old former Cheetahs hooker is perhaps not as keen as the Cape Town franchise about a possible move.
However, if the Stormers are patient – and push through with the likes of Ntubeni, Solomon, Kotze and Venter – the BIG prize could perhaps be luring another World Cup winner to Cape Town.
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Malcolm Marx, four years the junior of both Mbonambi and Ntubeni, could arrive in the Western Cape in July next year.
Apart from their advanced years, both 30, they have had their share of injury issues over the years.
While the Dweba option might seem like a good short-term solution, patience may be the virtue that could land them the big fish.
Also, Mbonambi and Marx are not far apart on the salary scale – so Marx would not break the bank.
While on the subject of a big poser for the coach, Dobson, there was renewed talk of an outlandish offer by English club Harlequins for his services.
However, it is unlikely he will take the lure of earning Pounds.
There was, in that same media briefing – when Dobson and Rasool sat side-by-side – a clear indication that the WPPR is determined to hold onto their coach.
A contract extension beyond 2022 is on the table and Rasool made it clear Dobson is a crucial part of their long-term plans – the 2023-24 vision unveiled last week.
“The coach is an architect of Vision 23,” Rasool said during the virtual media briefing.
“It would be stupid to ditch the architect when we have just started off on our journey to Vision 23.
“We will augment the coaching staff, but we will not change them.”