Stormers ‘not scared of anyone’ after Dragons win boost playoff hopes

Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok was flawless off the tee against the Dragons. Picture: Gianluigi Guercia / AFP

Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok was flawless off the tee against the Dragons. Picture: Gianluigi Guercia / AFP

Published May 11, 2024


Stormers coach John Dobson has praised his players for their comeback win over the Dragons, which gave their United Rugby Championship playoffs hopes a massive boost.

The Stormers ran out 44-21 winners while also securing a crucial bonus point at Rodney Parade in Newport, Wales. But they had to dig deep after going behind 11-0 early on, before going into the halftime break 11-10.

The Stormers seemed to be playing within themselves in the first half, with only their rock-solid defence limiting the damage after botched lineouts and scrum penalties.

They also lost the kicking duel against the home side, and Dobson bemoaned their lack of intent with ball in hand.

“Our first mistake was we were quite conservative, we got into a bit of kick-tennis. We lost all of those battles,” Dobson said.

“We have got to be braver there, pulling the trigger and running it into those guys and testing their defence. We didn’t play rugby to start with and that was not the plan.

“I thought we lacked intensity, even our body language in the first half. Everything was poor. We must be good enough to impose our game on a team like the Dragons and we didn’t do that for a long time in the match.”

But the Stormers’ attacking prowess came to fore in the second half after repelling a dangerous Dragons attack when trailing 21-16.

They also started to dominate at scrum time, which gave them better field position to attack the Dragons.

“The big turning moment wasn’t actually anything on attack. It was when they got back into our 22 when they were 21-16 up and we held them out. There were some immense tackles. You could just see this team say, ‘enough is enough now’.

“Winning away and seeing that Stormers fight and those transitions, it might sound silly, but it’s important to us. I will give the players credit because in the coaches box we were a bit more panicked than the players. We did really well to turn it around.”

The Stormers’ big players really stood up in the second half, with Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok enjoying a prefect evening off the kicking tee, while fullback Warrick Gelant and No 8 Evan Roos hurt the opposition with ball in hand.

But it was the impact of the bench that was telling, as Hacjivah Dayimani’s carried strongly and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu scoring two late tries to seal the win for the Stormers.

“Manie’s kicks were so important, in a game that we were losing, especially the conversion to get us two scores clear. It meant we could open it up and go for the bonus point,” Dobson said.

“Even Roos is going nicely week-in and week-out and I thought [captain] Salmaan [Moerat] is also going nicely, which is why we made the lock change so late.”

The Stormers essentially have their playoff hopes in their own hands with two matches against Connacht (away) and the Lions (home) to go.

Mathematically they can still get into the top four and get a home quarter-final, but Dobson says they aren’t bothered about travelling for a knockout fixture.

“Look, I think the top four probably went when we lost to Ospreys, but we will keep fighting,” Dobson said.

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“We’ve put ourselves in the frame for it now. What we just couldn’t have let happen, is not play and not be in the top eight and the playoffs.

“There’s nobody we are really scared of in this competition. There’s nobody we would be scared of going away to or anything like that.

“If some other results go our way, we could finish in the top four, which will be great. Our focus is on experiences like this, so we can start winning away. That’s why this was so important.”