Roberts can add to the halfback combination, and we will get a taste of how he will do in that regard, and his overall influence
There is no way the Stormers’ Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes cannot be good, no way at all. At the very least, whichever way things go, it will be interesting and there will be no shortage of hot topics to be addressed on the field on Saturday.
Here are five of them
1. How will the Hurricanes go without Beauden Barrett’s magic?
Ah, the magic of Beaudy, one of the few men in rugby who can make practically anything look sexy on a rugby field.
For so many years he was both the choreographer and star performer when it came to the Hurricanes’ attacking displays. Honestly, watching him humiliate defences and do it as routinely as a social-media check would almost be painful to watch if it wasn’t so downright enjoyable.
The influence of the bona fide playmaker will certainly be missed by the Hurricanes, for sure. But the big question is, how much?
2. How much will the Stormers’ Boks influence their Super Rugby proceedings?
Right, they won the World Cup with the Springboks, and after all the manhandling they dished out in Japan, the Stormers’ Bok forwards now undoubtedly form one of the strongest weapons in John Dobson’s arsenal.
How they go this season will have a major impact on the direction the Stormers’ season takes.
Earlier this week, Dobson said that the Stormers were planning on having a proper go at the Hurricanes with their forwards and that they want to engage them at the set-piece, and given the status and abilities of these forwards extraordinaire, it would be a waste not to.
But it’s not just up front where the confidence of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup should flow – the Stormers also have the thrill-a-minute halfback duo of Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse in the mix.
Talk about having the goods in all the right places.
3. Have the Canes changed
As earlier mentioned, there’s no Barrett, and the other significant change in the Hurricanes set-up is of course the change of coach.
While Jason Holland, their new coach, has been with the Wellington-based team since 2015, there is no telling for sure what he has brought to the team since taking over the main seat, or if anything has changed.
Pre-season results aren’t much to go on either, so the big unveiling will happen at Newlands this weekend.
4. Stormers’ performance centre stage
Dobson is going full-out with his selections for the Stormers’ opener, that much he has made clear. So, if you are a Bok or in possession of anything else that resembles a Test cap, chances are you will be in the starting line-up come the weekend.
The inside centre position was a bit of a concern last year (given Dan du Plessis’ injury struggles and Damian de Allende’s then-impending departure), but that situation has been worked on with the recruitment of Welsh international Jamie Roberts, who is likely to make his Super Rugby debut in the run-on side.
Dobson has spoken quite a bit about the calm Roberts can add to the halfback combination, and we will get a taste of how he will do in that regard, and his overall influence, on Saturday.
And let’s not forget about Rikus Pretorius
5. How much different are the Stormers really?
Too soon, it’s way too soon to tell. Saturday will be too soon, next week will be too soon and the week after that may still be considered too soon, but Saturday’s performance should at least give an indication, just a little taste, of where these guys are at in terms of mindset and physical preparedness.
Again, Saturday’s opener will by no means serve as a Super Rugby crystal ball, but there has been a lot of talk from players about how they have done things differently under Dobson until now, while the coach himself has spoken about the kind of game the Stormers would like to play this season.
Again, no playoff calls can be made with any kind of surety based on how the Stormers go on Saturday, but it will be enough to pick up on what’s new. It will at least offer, well, a taste.