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Stormers must make the most of ball-in-play opportunities

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The plan for this week includes bringing in guys who can do with some game time before the competitive rugby starts

Stormers coach John Dobson giving instructions to his players during a training session. Picture: Phando Jikelo, African News Agency (ANA)

STORMERS coach John Dobson says one of the goals for their Preparation Series clash against the Lions on Saturday is to keep adapting to a higher ball-in-play time.

The Stormers will go up against the Johannesburg side (kick-off 5pm) at their new Cape Town Stadium home after taking a 34-29 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus last weekend despite a pleasing performance overall and a few top individual contributions.

This week, Dobson wants to see them build on what they’ve done so far.

“I was pleased with the character the guys showed up there,” he said. “We knew we weren’t putting massive emphasis on results in this series, but the way they fought was good.

“I’m happy with the conditioning of the guys, it’s tough up there. In that Cheetahs game we had, on paper, probably our most inexperienced side. We were a kick away from winning that game, so I’m not really worried about our fitness. I suppose what is a slight concern is – and it’s not just in this series, it happened last year as well – is getting 10, 12, 14 points away from the opposition and then conceding that in soft moments.

“We have worked really hard during training to adapt to a much higher ball-in-play and I think it showed at the weekend, we want to continue that this weekend.”

He added that the plan for this week includes bringing in guys who can do with some game time before the competitive rugby starts.

“We’d liked to have won the game. We were trying two things in this series – one, to modify or develop our game model a little bit from how we played in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby Unlocked, so that’s pleasing.

“From the first game against the Cheetahs we showed a little of that intent and it’s developing more, which is natural. And two, we were going to strengthen our team more and more towards the end of the competition. We brought in more experienced guys like Salmaan (Moerat), Damian (Willemse), and JD (Schickerling). This week, we want to bring in some guys that haven’t played rugby for a while, so that if the Rainbow Cup goes ahead, they’ll have some game time under the belt. I’m pretty pleased with our development.”

The Stormers have secured the services of promising props Neethling Fouché, Leon Lyons and Sazi Sandi for the near future with the trio having signed contract extensions with Western Province Professional Rugby (WPPR).

Fouché, a mobile tighthead who comes with a big presence both at the scrum and in open play, has become a regular for both the Stormers and Western Province and has signed on for two more years.

Loosehead Lyons and tighthead Sandi, who both hail from the Eastern Cape and attended the Western Province Rugby Institute straight after school, represented the Junior Springboks in 2018 and made their debuts for the Stormers and WP last year.

The Stormers team to face the Lions will be named on Friday.