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DHL Stormers show real character

PUBLISHED: April 8, 2024


While disappointed with the narrow loss against defending champions Stade Rochelais in their Investec Champions Cup knock-out match at DHL Stadium, DHL Stormers Director of Rugby John Dobson praised the character his team showed to fight back against the odds.

The DHL Stormers were decimated by injuries in their Round of 16 clash with the French giants as captain Salmaan Moerat and flanks Ben Jason Dixon and Hacjivah Dayimani all suffered concussions, while Deon Fourie and Leolin Zas were also sidelined with knee injuries.

Despite those setbacks, the DHL Stormers fought back bravely, with a try after the hooter giving them a chance to snatch a famous win. It was not to be as the strong winds took Manie Libbok’s conversion attempt wide, to end their hopes in the Investec Champions Cup.

Dobson said that although it was gutting to go down in that way, he was immensely proud of the character his team showed in front of their home fans at DHL Stadium.

“For us to lose so many men in key positions and leaders, for that matter, is testimony to the character of the side,” Dobson said.

“They fought until the very end and that’s all we could have asked for. There was one point in it. We’re very proud of the group. It’s going to hurt for a while, and it should hurt, but ultimately I’m very proud of the effort shown,” he added.

Depite being down to 14 men, the DHL Stormers looked to have scored the match-winning try when Damian Willemse dotted down, but it was called back by the TMO for a knock-on at a ruck in the build-up.

They refused to let their heads drop and continued pressing for the winning score, with a number of opportunities going begging as the players tried to score close to the poles, given the strong winds which made goal-kicking extremely challenging.

Dobson said that the awareness and fight his players showed in the final stages gave him plenty of hope for better days ahead.

“What made me really proud, was how they tried to score that try. Damian [Willemse] could’ve scored in the corner, but tried to come in. A lot of teams would have just taken the try. We didn’t want to score a maul try, even though our maul looked reasonably promising.

“We were playing the champions, completely disrupted with injuries and we were worrying about where we are going to score. That maturity under that pressure.

“Every other team in the world is mauling it. We would normally maul it and ask Manie to kick it. That sort of composure and maturity was really cool.”

“The more we can play together and get these experiences,” Dobson said. “We’ve gone toe-to-toe with arguably the best club side in the world, two games in a row. It finished one-one in the series, so we can claim that,” he said.

The DHL Stormers are next in action in the Vodacom URC on 20 April, when they host Ospreys at DHL Stadium.