Dobbo’s Diary: Test of character

PUBLISHED: January 13, 2023

How a team responds to a close defeat is always a telling test of character and we have made a conscious mental switch to bank the learnings but park the loss against Glasgow.

The game was locked up at 17-17 with less than 20 minutes remaining and there for the taking before the late strike from Warriors wing Sebastián Cancelliere.

That was the Vodacom United Rugby Championship; this week it’s the Heineken Champions Cup, a competition that differs in more than just the name given we’re effectively at a knock-out stage with six teams tied on five log points in Pool B.

They say a week is a long time in the world of sport and transitioning to this week’s challenge against London Irish was certainly made easier by the great adventure that came with moving our base to the capital of the United Kingdom.

The squad has embraced the culture of being in one of the great cities of the world, and the unique sights and sounds remind us what a privilege it is to represent the DHL Stormers here for the first time.

This trip has also given us a special appreciation for the incredible weather at home that we’re missing, and we are very much looking forward to getting back to the sunny skies of Cape Town to host Clermont next week!

We were coming off a 24-14 loss at Clermont when we first hosted London Irish in December, and we won 34-14. While it would have been brilliant to barge into Brentford this week with the momentum of a victory against Glasgow, I do expect we will again respond to the bitter taste of defeat with a good performance.

As our fellow South African teams are also quickly learning, the challenge is notably greater facing European clubs away from home. In this regard we have huge respect for London Irish, a club with a 125-year history that has only lost a couple of matches at the Gtech Community Stadium this season.

At the beginning of the season, I would not have hesitated to accept the terms of our current position – second in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and in the running to reach the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 – especially when you consider the number of players that have come through as we campaign in two competitions.

Physically, the squad is in a good place and ready to rebound. Mentally, this week has revitalised our focus and enthusiasm about getting the job done so that we celebrate a historic London debut with a win that puts us on the runway at Heathrow with a smile that’s about more than just getting back to the greatest rugby fans in the world.

See you soon!

Much love