Manie Libbok. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
- Stormers mentor John Dobson hailed his available Springboks for maintaining their focus against the Lions when they easily could’ve been distracted by their upcoming national duty.
- Despite the stirring comeback, Dobson felt his team was defensively poor and have lots to address before the season resumes next month.
- Meanwhile, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen was left frustrated by his team’s “complete turnaround” after a fine start.
In the build-up to Saturday’s URC meeting with the Lions, Stormers coach John Dobson expressed his confidence that some of his Springbok hopefuls – notably Evan Roos, Mannie Libbok, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Joseph Dweba – would summon the necessary focus to get the job done at Ellis Park before thinking about national duty.
And in the end, that faith was rewarded as his band of fringe Green-and-Gold stars took the lead in mounting a stirring if flawed comeback victory by 31-22.
Libbok, in particular, was once again a commanding presence, while Roos and Feinberg-Mngomezulu upped their output after somewhat indifferent starts to the match.
Happily, as Dobson noted, there was to be no repeat of the 2018 Currie Cup final, where his Western Province troops fell to the Sharks after several of his stalwarts were distracted by Bok call-ups.
“You’d remember that the national team departed the night after that final and we had quite a few Bok hopefuls getting the nod like Sergeal Petersen, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, JD Schickerling and Ruhan Nel. The guys were on that plane in their heads when the game started. Of course, you understand it because if you’re making the Springbok team, the emotions will be all over the place,” he said.
“But for someone like Manie Libbok to produce a performance like this one [was brilliant]. The worst thing that could happen to him today was to get injured and that could’ve played on his mind. It’s human nature.
“Yet I was so pleased with the performance he delivered and the same with the others.”
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If anything, Libbok and Co wanted to repay teammates for responding so positively to the news that no less than 14 players would be jetting off to Europe with the Boks and South Africa ‘A’.
“There was a massively good feeling among everybody at our franchise. We saw it in the captain’s run too. Everybody is just so pleased for the guys that got selected. That’s part of the game, that team spirit,” said Dobson.
There could be no denying, however, that, as a collective, the Stormers still aren’t playing to their potential.
“All’s well that ends well is probably a good summation of our performance. A lot of the processes were poor. It was probably our worst defensive performance to date, I felt, in terms of giving yards, not rolling away,” said Dobson.
“We looked absolutely disjointed. Giving away 11 penalties in the first half illustrated how awful our discipline was and the lineouts were poor throughout. But we do have the ability to score tries. There are definitely work-ons for all of us.”
For his Lions counterpart, Ivan van Rooyen, the home side’s collapse after a superb start was rather galling.
“It was yin and yang. It was just a complete turnaround. We had control at half-time and then lost it,” he said.
“If your lineout then doesn’t function, you can’t build pressure back and you end up playing in the wrong half of field as well as defending. That mixture doesn’t work that well.”