CAPE TOWN – The Springbok pack was a thing of beauty during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last year, and if any South African team could confidently claim major bragging rights for their influence in that unit, it’s the Stormers.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi, loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff, flanks Siya Kolisi and (the injured) Pieter-Steph du Toit, and tighthead Frans Malherbe all played a massive role in the Boks’ victorious World Cup campaign in Japan, and how coach John Dobson’s side go in the domestic competition, which kicks off on October 10, and beyond certainly is something to look forward to.
While there’s nothing set in stone just yet as to how long we will see these stars involved on the local landscape – depending on whether the Springboks take part in the Rugby Championship in Australia in November – it will still be good to see how the next few months could prove to be a kind of unveiling for some young Stormers forwards.
In the absence of former Stormers scrum anchor Wilco Louw – now with Harlequins in England – guys like Neethling Fouche, who’s done well when he’s got a chance, and workhorse Sazi Sande may just get a bit more of an opportunity, perhaps on a rotational basis or if injury so requires, to show what they can add to the engine room.
To the sides of the scrum and in the second row, a player like David Meihuizen could also start visualising with a bit more intent now given the exit of Cobus Wiese (now of the Sale Sharks), while blindside flanker Ernst van Rhyn is another player who can cover the gap left by Wiese, who often contributed his hard and heavy work in the No 7 jumper as well.
And then there’s also current World Rugby Player of the Year Du Toit’s younger brother Johan.
In his last media engagement, Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani was confident that there won’t be too much weight lost at loosehead prop either when the domestic competition starts either, even though Alistair Vermaak is still nursing a neck injury.
So, while we have every reason to get excited about seeing the fit and ready World Cup-winners have a proper run, we just might be in for another treat courtesy of the youngsters – many of whom will finally get that chance to show what they’re made of in the absence of some solid experience.