John Dobson remains firmly on the radar of English club Harlequins, but he is likely to extend his contract as Stormers coach after a recent upturn in optimism over future prospects for the Cape franchise, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
When it comes to the professional arm of WP Rugby, there have been some much-needed encouraging signs in recent weeks.
At the end of March, Frans Malherbe opted to sign a contract extension with Western Province Professional Rugby (WPPR), while it was recently confirmed that fellow World Cup-winning prop Steven Kitshoff had agreed to commit his future to the Stormers, where he has been confirmed as captain.
Damian Willemse has also recommitted to the Cape side, while hooker Scarra Ntubeni is another key member of the squad who agreed to a three-year contract extension.
This follows a sequence of re-signings from highly-regarded young players, and it’s increasingly become clear that the mass player exodus some predicted will not be materialising despite some of the off-field issues related to the union’s amateur arm.
Malherbe was particularly emphatic when explaining the reasoning behind his decision to opt against a big-money offer from Japan.
‘I have a lot of confidence in our [playing] group and especially in John Dobson and his coaching staff. I enjoy working with them and I reckon, as a collective, the management team deserves more credit than what they get.
‘While I’m still in Cape Town, I really want to win a big competition under Dobbo, Dawie [Snyman], Norman [Laker] and everyone else who is currently part of the coaching set-up. I truly believe there’s something special brewing at WP.’
However, Harlequins have been on the search for a replacement for Paul Gustard, and Dobson is said to have been the prime target, while he reportedly impressed in an interview last week.
Understandably, Dobson may have been seriously weighing up his options after ongoing turmoil within the amateur arm of WP Rugby, but more encouraging developments for the professional wing has increasingly allayed some concerns.
Dobson has been highly influential in securing the future of key players who have re-signed with the Stormers, and has wanted to secure these contracts and those of his fellow coaching team before putting pen to paper.
A contract extension beyond 2022 has been on the table since last month for Dobson, and although he has yet to sign, the sentiment is that matters are turning for the better at the Stormers.
Just last week WPPR chairperson Ebrahim Rasool stated that he believed the future was bright after positive discussions with Dobson about their plans for a ‘Vision 23/24’.
‘The coach is an architect of Vision 23. It would be stupid to ditch the architect when we have just started off on our journey to Vision 23. We will augment the coaching staff, but we will not change them,’ Rasool stated.
‘The coach has a mandate to find us the kind of conditioning person that can bring out even greater potential. So for me, the coach is here until the end of that vision. We want to hold him accountable in 2024.’