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Anne Photograp News 2024

The weather smiles upon Stormers as they encounter physical dragons
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The weather smiles upon Stormers as they encounter physical dragons

Dawie Snyman © Gallo Images

The DHL Stormers’ suspicions that they may find conditions in Wales for Friday night’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship match with the Dragons more to their liking than when they were last there in November have proven correct.

“The weather has been nice so far and they are expecting nice weather on Friday, which we are excited about. We must have brought it from Cape Town,” smiled skipper Salmaan Moerat after his coach John Dobson named a strong team for the Rodney Parade match.

With the Dragons sitting second to last in the URC log, you might have thought the Stormers would mix and match their squads for this match, but assistant coach Dawie Snyman confirmed management had decided the situation was the strongest available squad required.

“Yes, it is close to our strongest team. We have to get the result and we want to build a bit of cohesion in the last few games,” Snyman said.

The only top player missing is Springbok World Cup winner Damian Willemse, but Snyman said that was a selection decision that was dictated by circumstances.

“Damian had a personal issue to deal with and he only joined the team today. Obviously we can only select boys who are available to train,” said the Stormers assistant coach.

Although Willemse is a great player, the Stormers are well covered in his absence, with Wandisile Simelane coming in at outside center for his first overseas competitive match for the Stormers – he played and did well in the friendly against Northampton two months ago – and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu back from injury and in the squad as part of the bench.

“Sacha is back from injury and he brings a lot of energy and excitement. It’s great to have him back as we enter this important part of the season. Although he is only on the bench this week, he will play an important role in the match,” said Snyman.

Feinberg-Mngomezulu is one of three backs on the bench as the Stormers move away from their usual six/two split between forwards and backs, with Jean-Luc du Plessis appearing in a Stormers jersey for the first time since returning just before half-time December was injured. derby against the Vodacom Bulls.

“We have been training at a very high level, so all the players who have been out for a while will be ready. Jean-Luc is a very competitive man and is training the best he has done in his entire career. If we find ourselves in a difficult situation late in the game, he is the perfect man to bring in.”

Moerat welcomed the return of Sti Sithole as the Stormers’ front row is back to full strength for the first time in a long time.

“I’m very happy for Sti. He was doing so well before he got injured and is one of our top players,” said the captain.

“Brok (Harris) has done a great job in his absence, but now that we have that crisis at Loosehead it’s good to have Sti back. He is a quality player. The props, and the pack as a whole, have instilled a great scrum culture at the Stormers and Sti takes great pride in the scrum work. He brings experience and expertise and this game will have to be won by the tight five and the forwards in general. It is an important part of our game and something we want to excel in.”

The Stormers may have underestimated the Ospreys, another Welsh side, which may have contributed to a shock home loss a few weeks ago, but Moerat says there is no chance of that happening this time, even though the Dragons are on the base of the tree trunk.

“The Dragons are a quality side. Two years ago we had a very tough game against them, perhaps one of the most physical games of the season. It’s their last home game, so they’ll be ready. The URC has been such a competitive league overall this year that there isn’t much difference in the log positions in terms of points. They have some good international players, but we are well prepared.”