//Our midway coach rating: Stormers John Dobson

Our midway coach rating: Stormers John Dobson

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Would John
Dobson’s
Stormers, under pre-coronavirus circumstances, have bettered statistically
in 2020 the showing of Robbie Fleck in his final season as head coach of the
franchise last year?

It is a question
that will probably not now receive an answer.

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All that is
possible is a comparison between where they were at the same point (six
matches) into their respective campaigns: Dobson stood at four wins and two
defeats when the tournament was suspended; Fleck had posted three victories and
three reverses in 2019 to trail his successor by one positive outcome … en
route to a season where his charges ended a disappointing 10th
overall.

But it’s
also hardly an apples v apples comparison: the 2019 Stormers were in the midst
of their ever-hazardous main overseas tour, which had already seen them beaten
in each of their first two matches (Hurricanes and Blues), whereas the present
side haven’t yet set foot outside the country.

Fleck had
taken a serious opening-round “klap” against the Bulls at Loftus (40-3), yet
also bounced back to beat the Lions at home, Sharks away and Jaguares at home
straight after the fiasco.

Dobson got
off with a relative bang this year, sporting a 100 percent record from four
rounds – even if the brand of rugby certainly wasn’t consistently enthralling in
doing so – but then seeing a significant correction, if you like, with that
insipid, big home loss to the Blues and defeat in a Kings Park derby.

Nevertheless,
even if the 2020 competition sees no further light of day, the incumbent will
be able to point to the fact that his team were in the “playoffs zone” at the
halt … in seventh overall.

Whether the current
Stormers had evolved in any way in the oft-stated quest to bring back a
“Province rugby” sort of ethic (one based strongly on entertainment value) to
cash-strapped Newlands is probably also not very fairly judged after half a
dozen fixtures under a new regime, is it?

The initial
signs have not been that positive, with tries and flowing rugby in modest
supply, although the resilient, well-structured defensive principles of both
the prior Fleck and Allister Coetzee eras have been in evidence agreeably
enough.

Somehow the impressive
enough parts, on paper, have not added up yet to a heart-warmingly compelling
whole, with at least part of the drawback being that Damian Willemse, the most
regularly-deployed flyhalf, increasingly battled for confidence and precision despite
his numerous gifts and could not always provide the metronomic, dictatorial
qualities clearly sought at times from a No 10 operating behind a strong,
Springbok-laden pack.

On the topic
of that forward unit, Dobson became increasingly (and quite savagely) stunted
in his goals by the drop-like-flies hallmark that took root from an injury
point of view.

It was
beyond bleak, after those six outings, that the toll had increasingly swollen
to eventually include, on a long-term basis, all of World Cup-winning heroes Steven
Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Indeed, it
is highly possible – given that the hoodoo affected other, slightly less
trumpeted but still valuable players in the squad – that the Stormers’ glaring
lack of depth in certain berths was going to be exposed in a major way (read:
potentially in the results column?) had the competition continued on its more
routine course.

“Dobbo” has
a delightful eccentricity, a human intelligence that goes well beyond the
confines of rugby, and his already renowned, disarming honesty – a journalist’s
dream – only carried over into his early days at the Stormers’ tiller.

He takes
responsibility flush on the chin, and has confessed a need to shake things up a
little, strategically, should there be any resumption of hostilities before too
long.

If I wanted
to be nit-picky, I would probably give Dobson a score of 6.25 at this juncture,
feeling that six would be a touch too low and 6.5 a wee bit generous … but he sneaks
the latter on the basis that his Stormers were “at the races” when the
suspension came, and his reign was still in relative infancy and at developmental
stage in a Capetonian set-up enduringly impeded by certain boardroom tensions.

The Stormers
were running with a two-thirds record; so why not a pretty direct transfer into
Dobson’s tally?  

Dobson’s rating:
6.5/10

READ | Our midway coach rating: Lions’ Ivan van Rooyen

READ | Our midway coach rating: Bulls’ Pote Human

*Follow
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing