AUDIO: Why Dobson is targeting Stade Rochelais
Stormers coach John Dobson is gearing up to go ‘full metal jacket’ against European champions La Rochelle in a fortnight and send his ‘B Team’ to England this week.
The Cape Town-based franchise is set to send a team of ‘mixed merits’ to open their European Cup campaign against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road this coming Sunday, December 10.
It is next week, when they host French giants Stade Rochelais in Cape Town on December 16, that they will bring out the big guns.
Having just returned from a four-week winless United Rugby Championship tour, the Stormers bounced back with a scratchy 31-9 win over lowly Zebre in Stellenbosch this past weekend.
Dobson was, initially, not keen to reveal too much, but admitted that playing his best team against the two-time defending champions La Rochelle is “non-negotiable”.
“We learnt from last season’s Champions Cup – and I am talking under correction – but 15 of the 16 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarterfinal matches were won by the home team,” Dobson said.
“If you get a point on the road, that is golden.
“You simply can’t [afford to] lose at home.
“If that happens you have to go somewhere crazy to get a point.
“La Rochelle for us is massive.
“It is also [massive] for Cape Town, the experience. It is December and we haven’t played a game at the [Cape Town] stadium yet,” he said of their home ground with its newly laid hybrid (grass and artificial turf) surface.
“The first game on that new field is going to be on December 16 and the season started in October.”
(WATCH AS Stormers coach John Dobson explains what his selection tactics are for the opening round of the European Cup competition…)
The Stormers coach said the team that faces Zebre in Stellenbosch at the weekend – bar one or two changes – will be the side that will initiate the new surface.
“That team will be much better for the run-out [against Zebre] at the weekend.
“Does it make sense to send a Damian Willemse or a Deon Fourie via Mogadishu to Leicester on a Sunday and return for a six-day turnaround?
“La Rochelle is our focus.
“Leicester, if we can get a point with a mixture of players, that is our approach.”
He pointed out that many outfits have sent ‘B Teams’ to rivals to focus on other games for varying reasons.
“Teams were focussing on surviving in the Premiership, when they still had promotion-relegation.
“The different component is the six-day turnaround across two continents.
“That is where the competition produces some challenges.
“The same will be true for European teams.”
Dobson said December 16 is going to be a ‘fantastic’ experience and he hopes the French team come “full metal jacket” for their first trip to South Africa.
“We have been preparing for this game for a while now,” the coach said, adding: “We will be in good shape.”
Dobson said he had ‘mixed feelings’ about his team’s win in Stellenbosch at the weekend, despite the emphatic nature of the scoreline.
“There were plenty of effort and players trying,” the seasoned coach said, adding: “But we left at least three or four tries out there.”
He added that the defence, in the first half, was also not up to the usual Stormers standards.
He gave his team a “par” for their performance.
The Stormers scored five tries to claim a full house of five log points and keep alive their URC play-off dreams.