DHL Stormers playing for something more

PUBLISHED: May 19, 2024

They may have already qualified for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship play-offs and have their place in the Investec Champions Cup next season all but secured, but the DHL Stormers will be playing for something more in their last league match of the season against Emirates Lions at DHL Stadium.

Their hard-fought 16-12 against Connacht in Galway on Saturday ensured that the DHL Stormers will not finish below seventh on the standings, but they will not be resting on any laurels in the big South African derby in Cape Town on Saturday, June 1.

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Director of Rugby John Dobson said that apart from wanting to finish as high on the standings as possible and take some crucial momentum into the play-offs, the DHL Stormers ‘owe it’ to their supporters to play their best rugby in what could be their last game of the season at home.

“We are going to go full metal jacket to try and win that game. We owe it to the people of Cape Town in our last home game of the season.

“The higher on the log we are, theoretically the easier the quarterfinal should be, it is going to be a tough game that one,” he said.

While it is not possible to break into the top four, the DHL Stormers could still take the SA Shield should they beat the Emirates Lions and the Vodacom Bulls lose to the Hollywoodbets Sharks in the final round of league fixtures.

Dobson is expecting a fierce examination from the Johannesburg side, that saw off Glasgow Warriors in fine style on Saturday.

“They won here in Galway much easier than we did, against Connacht with 14 men. They are a dangerous team and a desperate team, so it is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

Dobson said that while they were happy to get the win in tough conditions in Galway on Saturday, there are still a few key areas of their game that need some attention in the next two weeks ahead of the SA derby.

“Our line-outs and mauls are not where they should be and that is a technical thing we will work on. Defensively we were making double tackles, which is our system, but we were not getting the dominance we needed and guys were getting trapped in, which put us on both a high tackle warning and a warning for not rolling away.

“At the start of that second half to give six penalties away was a lot. Disipline is a boring answer, but defensively our discipline was not anything like it should be if we want to get to the sharp end of this tournament,” he said.

However, Dobson was impressed with the character his side showed to get over the line against a fired-up Connacht team.

“There is an amazing culture and work ethic across the group of players.

“Connacht were playing their last home game, they had to win to make the play-offs, they have a stand that is getting pulled down. There was a lot of emotional stuff before the game. So for us to defend like that is not something we coach, there is something within the group which has a sense of caring for each other and the cause to make Cape Town smile and proud,” he said.

The Director of Rugby admitted to some relief at having qualified for the knock-out rounds, given the difficult position his team had been in, but is looking forward to the challenge of doing it the ‘hard way’ after playing six play-off games at home over the last two seasons.

“From where we were the most important thing was to make the quarterfinals. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure with the tour at the start of the season and the defeat against the Ospreys.

“It was very nerve-wracking for us to get two wins on tour and they were tough wins.

“We have played every single play-off game in two seasons at DHL Stadium and it might be good for our growth to have to win a play-off game away from home,” he added.