Dobson likely to bring back all his Boks for north-south derby

Stormers coach John Dobson will have to consider whether to start Salmaan Moerat against the Bulls this weekend. | BackpagePix

Stormers coach John Dobson will have to consider whether to start Salmaan Moerat against the Bulls this weekend. | BackpagePix

Published Feb 26, 2024

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Leighton Koopman

The Stormers retreated to the Witzenberg in the Western Cape this past weekend as they stepped up preparations for their highly anticipated north-south derby rematch against the Bulls this weekend.

Loftus Versfeld will play host to the final round robin match between the arch-enemies (kick-off 5.05pm), and although they were the underdogs for the previous clash, the Stormers will rock up to Pretoria as the overwhelming favourites.

There is no denying it, especially because the former United Rugby Championship winners are on a seven-match winning streak against the Bulls in the tournament.

Stormers coach John Dobson will have to consider whether to start Salmaan Moerat against the Bulls this weekend. | BackpagePix

After the Loftus side came to Cape Town brimming with confidence late last year, the Stormers burst their bubble and had the last laugh, outwitting their Springbok-laden visitors, winning the match 26-20 in front of thousands of fans.

The ticket sellers in Pretoria are hoping to put the sold-out sign up at the stadium ahead of the game, and a full house of support could make it a more daunting experience for the Cape side.

But they’ve also shown time and again that they will fight until the end, even if the odds are stacked against them, to secure a win. And a win on Saturday could not only be a significant one in terms of the Stormers’ hopes of retaining the SA Shield but also of catching the home side on the overall URC log.

The trip to Ceres, where they trained away from the Cape Town noise, was the perfect build-up to the preparation week ahead of their travels to the Jakaranda City.

Head coach John Dobson and his assistants have a few big selection calls to make ahead of the clash. He will most likely bring back all of his Springboks for the clash after they rested against the Sharks.

Flyhalf Manie Libbok, utility back Damian Willemse, and ball fetcher Deon Fourie will be eager to step in. The players who stood in for them performed excellently against a Bok-laden Sharks outfit, though, and deserve another look-in.

Then there is the little prop and lock conundrum for Dobson.

He mentioned that Frans Malherbe will be up for selection, but stand-in captain Neethling Fouché has been excellent in the scrums. It will be a tough call to start Malherbe against what will be a fired-up Bulls pack, but he is not a double World Cup winner for nothing.

The return of regular captain Salmaan Moerat means the locks could get a shake-up too. Moerat will be raring to go after making a return off the bench against the Sharks. Ruben van Heerden, Adre Smith, Hendre Stassen, and Ben-Jason Dixon have been holding the fort well, but the experience of Moerat will be vital in Pretoria.