The DHL Stormers are Vodacom United Rugby Championship South African Shield winners for the second consecutive season.
Following the 29-23 win against the Cell C Sharks in front of 30 721 Faithful supporters at DHL Stadium on Saturday, the Emirates Lions’ win at Loftus Versfeld saw the DHL Stormers make it back-to-back Shield titles.
Although it was somewhat unexpected, DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson said that on reflection, it was quite a remarkable achievement to secure the Shield with three league games still to play this season.
“We weren’t expecting it at all, we didn’t chat about it in the week. What we did talk about was trying to complete the sweep of all the local teams over the season; that meant something to us.
“Well done to our coaching staff and Deon and his team. Deon and Kitsie are two world-class captains and in charge of a great group.
“Last year it took us until the 80th minute of the last league game when Ruhan Nel scored a try in Llanelli, so to win it with three games to go is a really special feeling,” he said.
One of the DHL Stormers’ aims this season was to back up their title-winning campaign last year and this was a major step towards doing so.
Dobson said that what makes it even more satisfying is the depth that they have managed to build in the squad while maintaining a winning culture.
“It was a big goal for us to maintain our status and back-up and also to build depth. Last year we were maybe a little shallow and we had a lot of guys with high game minutes. Now we have accomplished what we have with a broader pool,” he said.
While pleased with the way things have unfolded so far this season, Dobson is well-aware that there will be significant challenges as the season heads towards the business-end.
“We are pleased with ourselves now and we deserve to be happy, but I’m acutely aware that we could have a tough quarterfinal draw and our Heineken Cup game against Harlequins won’t be easy, so the flavour of the season could change. But it won’t change the fundamental building block of being a bigger squad and backing up last year. In some ways we have performed better this year than we did last year,” he said.
Captain Deon Fourie paid tribute to the coaching staff for building a winning culture and an inclusive environment in which players are able to come in and perform to the best of their abilities.
“Credit must go to the management and coaching staff, we have been one of the top teams in terms of getting guys through and getting them experience this season. So we are building that depth and it just shows what talent there is at the moment.
“We didn’t want to be a team that was just a flash in the pan with a once-off thing that we were lucky to win. That was our mindset, to show the people out there that we really are a good team and a good group.
“As soon as you create a sense of belonging where it is healthy and you are winning, it is easy for guys to flourish,” said Fourie.
The DHL Stormers are next in action on Friday, 24 March when they face log-leaders Leinster in a table-topping clash in Dublin.