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John Dobson, for all his idiosyncrasies, is good value.
The Stormers coach speaks his mind and isn’t averse to having a robust conversation about rugby, even if you or him don’t agree on what’s being discussed.
I wasn’t surprised then to read, in an interview given to a local specialist magazine, how he made a few eye-catching comments.
It was pretty cool that he admitted his charges should be considered favourites for the South African conference, because it’s the truth. With a vaunted Springbok-laden pack as well as an enterprising backline to choose from, the Cape franchise is on a decent wicket.
But then he said this: “We can’t play this Faf de Klerk box-kick stuff. We will empty Newlands.”
Whether it was meant wryly doesn’t really matter, it’s a comment that has me concerned.
If the Springboks’ World Cup victory has taught us anything it’s that South African rugby needs to find a national style of play. And that style is based on a robust pack of forwards, supreme defence, set-piece domination and ruthless counter-attacking.
To comment that a Faf box-kick will empty Newlands is fuelling the lingering perception that the local game remains antiquated and boring. It reinforces the infuriating, populist ideology that we still need to – except when they lose in a World Cup semi – play catch-up to New Zealand.
I really couldn’t care less about Newlands’ attendance at this stage. If attractive rugby is what gets bums on seats instead of winning rugby, then priorities down in the Cape are all wrong.
The Stormers are in the best position to drive a new era of a clear national style of play.
Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse surely have an idea now of what the true winning recipe is.
What if the pack, as Dobson argues, can’t create space on attack? Then the Stormers will need to kick like Faf to make headway … and bore Newlands.
But heaven knows, winning rugby is better than attractive rugby.
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