Loose forward Junior Pokomela is relishing the opportunity to pit himself against former allies when the DHL Stormers and the Glasgow Warriors lock horns in Scotland on Sunday.
A hard-grafting member of the DHL Stormers’ back-row corps set for duty on the two-match tour to the United Kingdom, Pokomela is in line to face former teammate and lock Sintu Manjezi in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash at Scotstoun Stadium.
Both men played for the Toyota Cheetahs in 2019, with Pokomela moving to Cape Town in 2021 and Manjezi joining Glasgow in June via a two-season stay with the Vodacom Bulls.
“Sintu is a mate of mine, he’s a massive player,” said Pokomela.
“I played at the Toyota Cheetahs with him, and against him when he was at the Vodacom Bulls.
“We played good rugby together at the Toyota Cheetahs, and I’m happy for him doing well at Glasgow, playing week in and week out. Looking forward to facing him this coming weekend, and meeting him up with him afterwards – excited actually.”
Glasgow, like the DHL Stormers, are coming off back-to-back derby wins in the Vodacom URC and the sixth-placed Scottish outfit seem to have turned a corner in 2022/23 under former Toyota Cheetahs head coach, Franco Smith.
Pokomela’s experience of playing for Smith from 2017 to 2019 gives him insight into what to expect in chilly Glasgow this week.
“I’ve got nothing but massive respect for Franco, when he coached me at the Toyota Cheetahs I played some of my best rugby under him,” he said.
“He has turned Glasgow around and they’re playing brilliant rugby. I watched their two games against Edinburgh and they played so well.
“They’re a free-flowing team but I can imagine with the weather conditions [in the northern hemisphere] he sometimes can’t play the way he would like to play because Franco is a coach who likes to attack and play quick ball.
“So we’ll prepare well and do our homework and make sure we’re ready for them.”
Playing in a DHL Stormers back row alongside the likes of veteran Deon Fourie and the dynamic Hacjivah Dayimani has brought the best out of Pokomela – the 26-year-old has scored three tries from nine Vodacom URC matches this campaign, five of them starting appearances.
On how the positional battle has helped grow his game, he added:
“The DHL Stormers competition from one to 15 is crazy, especially in the loose forwards.
“You’ve got Brannas [Fourie], Hacjivah, Evan [Roos], Willie [Engelbrecht], Marcel [Theunissen]… the depth is just unbelievable.
“So the competition is healthy and you have to be on your toes and keep pushing at the door. I’m happy I get to play each week and contribute to the team where I can. I’m blessed.
“A guy like Brannas, 36 years old and still playing his best rugby, I feed off of him and get to learn every day from these guys.”