Cape Town – He was the darling of the Stormers in the heady ‘Men in Black’ era, and now Bob Skinstad is interested in investing in his beloved Cape side.
But that doesn’t mean John Dobson’s side are automatically favourites to defend their URC title successfully this season, or even beat the Scarlets at Cape Town Stadium on Friday night (7pm kickoff).
Skinstad, the former captain and loose forward of the 1999 Stormers team that reached the Super 12 semi-finals, confirmed media reports that he wanted to be part of the new ownership structure of the franchise during a media call for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship this week.
“The URC is probably the most upwardly mobile league in world rugby. They have proven that the north and south mix can work, and I think it has been amazing for South African rugby,” the ex-Springbok captain said.
“I genuinely believe that it has actually fixed a lot of the problems that South Africa found themselves in when stuck in Super Rugby. So, well done to the management of the URC to do that, but also to SA Rugby and URC teams participating for the vision to be part of it.
“I am interested in many teams, one of them being a team that I came from in the Stormers. That’s not really for this discussion now, but part of the upsides of that would be that it’s one of the most popular sports in the world.
“We’ve seen the interest in the upcoming World Cup, and over the last four weeks, full stadiums all over the world.
“It’s definitely a sport that’s on the up. It’s staking its claim around the world. Why wouldn’t there be interest in it? The URC is getting it right, and we know that rugby is wobbling in some leagues, and we don’t have to mention who’s wobbling…
“But in the URC, there are some prize assets, and the management and teams can be proud of that.”
But while those negotiations are still ongoing, Skinstad believes that the Stormers will have a tough time of it against the Scarlets, especially with star flyhalf Manie Libbok and barnstorming No 8 Evan Roos preparing to play for the Boks against England on Saturday.
“Defending their title and winning this weekend are two different questions. I would say that Cardiff did really well against them, and if you drop a game like that, you drop a freebie – in my mind – if you are planning to win (the title),” Skinstad said.
“For them to go and win against the Lions away, they picked up a freebie, as the Lions had been in good form.
“I do think they have enough strength in depth. I think this weekend, they will have to rally. I think the Scarlets are a big name in world rugby, and they will have to be on their game to win. They will get their Springboks back after that…
“The Stormers, by their own admission, last year – I won’t say it was a once-in-a-generation win… But that team kept people together that they needed last season, and they turned up and performed to win the semi-final and final.
“Manie Libbok, with his accuracy off the boot and ability to control the players outside him, it didn’t matter who was injured or not.
“They will battle (with Libbok and Roos). They have had a longer period of preparation, but so have the Scarlets. I think we are going to see a titanic struggle.
“There is absolutely no chance that the Stormers will think this is a shoo-in and they will pick up their points and move on.
“They are aware that when the Scarlets get their game together, they are a dangerous side. They would say that if both teams play at their best, then we should have a victory – but you can’t do that every week, and certainly can’t do that with two of your best players at the Springboks.
“They should have enough, but I would see the Scarlets also aiming at it as a surprise win away from home.”