Dobson: Expectation surrounding Bok-laden Stormers is justified
Cape Town - When the Stormers take to the Newlands turf on Saturday in their Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes, they will do so with no less than seven 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks in their starting line-up.
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It is a big part of the reason that many are expecting the Capetonians will be strong in this year's competition.
The Stormers have not played in a Super Rugby final since the 2010 showpiece against the Bulls in Soweto, which they lost 25-17.
In this, their final year at Newlands before an almost certain move to Cape Town Stadium, the Stormers are desperate to give their long-serving supporters something to celebrate in Super Rugby.
Head coach John Dobson, addressing media on Thursday after naming his matchday squad, accepts that there is pressure on his side to deliver this year.
"There is rightfully a lot of expectation and pressure on us," Dobson said.
"We've got a really good squad with the most Springboks of the South African teams, it's our last year at Newlands which does mean a lot to everybody and we've got a reasonably good draw.
"I think the expectation and pressure on us is justified and we're just desperate to deliver on it."
With Super Rugby and particularly the South African franchises rocked by an exodus of quality players following the 2019 World Cup, the Stormers are the one local side that has come out looking relatively well-stocked.
Players like captain Siya Kolisi, World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit, tighthead prop Frans Malherbe, loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff and fullback Dillyn Leyds were all retained.
It is yet another reason why the Stormers are so heavily fancied in 2020.
"I think our retention rate, which was largely helped by influential guys like Pieter-Steph and Siya, is probably the highest of all the franchises. That took a lot of work over 2019," Dobson said.
"I think the cleanout across the rest of the competition is significant and a problem.
"The 45-man squad rule is also going to be a challenge because I think last year we were on 55 players.
"I think for somebody like the Sharks it's tough. You play a game against the Bulls and then you've got to get on an aeroplane and if you lose six or seven guys over the course of a tour, like you do, then it's going to be really tough for South African sides."
Despite all of that, the Stormers will still have to hit the ground running against what Dobson says is "a very strong" Hurricanes outfit.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 15:05.
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Siya Kolisi, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Johan du Toit, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Rikus Pretorius
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Fraser Armstrong
Substitutes: 16 Asafo Auma, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Tevita Mafileo, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Vince Aso