South Africa

Stormers accept they may be without World Cup Boks for URC start

Stormers coach John Dobson believes his side will be well prepared for the start of the United Rugby Championship (URC) season, even if they are without their Springbok contingent should they go all the way to the final of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Stormers kick off their campaign on the 21 October, which will be the same day as the second semifinal of the World Cup and a week before the final, so should the Boks progress to the latter stages of the tournament they will definitely be unavailable for the Cape-based team.

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Utility back Damian Willemse, flyhalf Manie Libbok, utility forward Deon Fourie and prop Frans Malherbe are the Stormers players in the Bok World Cup squad, which is a lot less than they have had in previous years.

Prop Steven Kitshoff and lock Marvin Orie, who are both also in the Bok squad, left the union at the end of last season, while players like Evan Roos, Herschel Jantjies and Joseph Dweba didn’t make the cut.

‘Not as bad’

“It won’t be as bad as last year or the year before. Our numbers (in the Bok squad) have dropped. Evan didn’t go, Joseph and Herschel are coming back. This is one of the horrible challenges for teams. Do you want to have a lot of Springboks?” said Dobson.

“If you look at our first tour (this coming season), we will probably go on it without our (current) Springboks. Whenever they come home, which God willing will be after the last game of the competition, those guys must recover.

“They will have been through an enormously stressful and intense period. No matter what the physical resting is, the most important thing from our point of view is for them to go away and rest and then come back and play rugby when they’re ready again.”

Dobson continued: “Whatever the protocols are, I want those guys to get over whatever happens in France, which will hopefully be a big celebration, before they return.

“It’s a really tough tour but I believe we have a good enough group that can do really well in the two (home) games before the tour and we can then take some good momentum into Europe.”

Travel struggles

Despite their impressive success in the first two seasons of the URC, with the Stormers winning the inaugural edition before then hosting a second successive final and finishing runners-up last season, they have largely struggled on the road in the competition.

That will be one of their key focus points going into the new season, as they aim to improve their patchy away form in Europe.

“All of our losses (overseas), like Cardiff in the rain and Glasgow (Warriors) on the 4G (pitch), those were technical problems. It wasn’t a player problem but a coaching one,” explained Dobson.

“We have to understand that Northern Hemisphere kicking game and how to contend with it better. That’s one of our key focus points this season and something we have to do better.”

The Stormers also face a difficult task in getting out of their Champions Cup group, which features a number of powerhouse teams including double defending champs La Rochelle and Irish giants Leinster, among others.

“In regards to the Champions Cup I don’t think we have the squad that can challenge on both fronts (URC and Champions Cup) yet. For that you need a squad of 35 players all with extensive Champions Cup experience,” admitted Dobson.

“But I do think we have the squad to get out of what is the group of death (for the coming season). That would be a fantastic achievement if we can do that and if we can get a bit further than that it will be great.

“What we do have which we didn’t have last season is guys that we can leave at home to honour URC fixtures a bit better.”