Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Dobson happy with Stormers growth despite worst URC finish: ‘We belong at top table’

This season the Stormers finished fifth on the log, leading to them facing their first ever away knockout match in the competition.

Stormers Director of Rugby John Dobson said that he was pleased with the growth of his team over a tough season despite them suffering their worst finish in the United Rugby Championship (URC) to date.

In their first two seasons in the competition the Stormers finished second and third on the log respectively at the end of the pool stage, before going on to reach the final, with them winning the inaugural edition and finishing as runners-up last season.

ALSO READ: Dobson can’t fault Stormers effort in quarterfinal loss against Glasgow

This season however the Stormers finished fifth on the log, leading to them facing their first away knockout match of the competition, which ended with Glasgow Warriors clinching a 27-10 win over them this past weekend to send them out at the quarterfinal stage.

“I’m pleased with the growth, in terms of getting experience, keeping the squad together and playing an away playoff despite the result in these conditions. The conditions were really tough (in Scotland), but we showed that fight,” explained Dobson after the match.

“We haven’t been as fluid as were in the first two seasons. But we were 13th after the (November) tour (to Europe and the UK) and we came back and finished fifth and we were in the fight here.

“So we belong at the top table of the URC. That’s important to confirm that. We aren’t just a flash in the pan. Going to two finals and then finishing fifth this season proved that we aren’t a flash in the pan.”

Injury crisis

Dobson pointed to the number of star players that the Stormers lost to injury over the season as one of the key reasons for their struggles in the pool phase and in Saturday’s playoff.

“Not many teams could take out Evan Roos, Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie, they are world-class players, and win. We showed character playing without them. It gives me hope for this group,” said Dobson.

“It’s brilliant. It gives me hope that we can get towards having two squads. We are still way off that, but we are a lot closer than we were at the beginning of the season.”

The Stormers are also bolstering their stocks ahead of next season with fan favourite, Springbok Steven Kitshoff, returning after a season at Irish side Ulster, and another former player in lock JD Schickerling back after spending the past few seasons in Japan.

“Those are two massive acquisitions. We are basically keeping this team together. Then we are adding JD and Steven. We will also get Deon, Damian and Evan back. Hopefully Seabelo (Senatla) will be back and Ruhan Nel is coming back,” said Dobson.

“So we will mount a better campaign. We won’t tour as poorly as we did this season. I am very confident about the future. I just would have loved to be in a semifinal. We were deservedly beaten in the end.”