John Dobson has earned the right to be seriously considered for the Stormers' head coach gig, writes RYAN VREDE.
On Saturday, Dobson's Vodacom Cup side qualified for the final with victory over the Blue Bulls. His record after five successful seasons in charge of both the U21 and Vodacom Cup sides is excellent, having won three trophies in that period. Dobson's sides have been very good feeders for WP and the Stormers. And, crucially in a region blessed with abundant black and coloured talent, his selections have consistently featured a healthy number of players from those racial demographics.
Dobson first sprung to prominence as coach of UCT in the Varsity Cup, with his performances there earning him elevation to the provincial ranks. His rise has continued unabated since and he will have an opportunity to test his skill at Currie Cup level later this year after being given an opportunity to head up the coaching staff.
I've maintained in my writing that the now grossly diluted Currie Cup is a poor measure of a player's readiness for Super Rugby, so it stands to reason that the same rationale should apply to the coach of a Currie Cup team. However, it will offer us further insight into the depth of Dobson's technical, tactical and man-management skills.
Dobson is highly regarded at the union and I understand that he's a strong contender for the Stormers post, which Allistair Coetzee vacates after the current Super Rugby campaign. Most candidates with Test experience have distanced themselves from the job (Eddie Jones being the latest and most high profile to do so) and while that certainly doesn't discount them, Dobson is a highly competent alternative should the Western Province Rugby Football Union have to explore its list of contingencies (read: a head coach without Test or extensive elite club/franchise level experience). That said, there are enough carcasses of coaches scattered across the Super Rugby landscape to prove that having Test or extensive club/franchise experience isn't a ready-made recipe for success.
In the context of where the Stormers are in their Super Rugby challenge, and the likelihood that key players signing lucrative deals with foreign clubs will continue to undermine their push to be one of the tournament's elite sides, Dobson will be the brave selection. He would undoubtedly take more time to settle than a coach with the aforementioned criteria would. There probably wouldn't be instant success, but Dobson gives one the sense (admittedly sense informed by professional interaction) that he could adapt and grow into the role successfully if given some bedding in time.
In a results-driven environment, time and patience are commodities that bosses of consistently successful Super Rugby franchises are not liberal with. But the best franchise chiefs have excellent discernment which allows them to tell the difference between a terminally hopeless coach and one with the capacity to overcome initial struggles and advance the team. As already stated, it's only a sense, albeit an informed one, that Dobson would fall firmly in the latter category.
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