United Rugby Championship: John Dobson reflects on ‘Sisyphean’ season

·2-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

It’s a less-known fact in the rugby world that Stormers coach John Dobson also holds a Master’s in creative writing.

But for those who do know, it should also come as no surprise that, when asked to reflect upon an extraordinary season, he turns to literary figures to embellish his answer.

Dark times

“It was dark. Western Province was dying, no doubt about it,” he said to South Africa’s Business Day, as he remembered moments when he believed Western Province Rugby might go out of business less than a year ago.

“So I had in my mind the Dylan Thomas line from his poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night — rage, rage against the dying of the light’. And then the Greek myth of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill.

“He’s known as the absurd hero. He was without hope, and his joy became defying that absence of hope.

“As a team we were 88-1 odds at the start of this competition, and we told the players about the absurd hero that was Sisyphus, and they took it on and revelled in proving everybody wrong week in and week out.”

It’s been a remarkable season. The Stormers have weathered the loss of key players to the cashed-up Sharks, the traumatic decampment from the traditional home of Newlands to the Cape Town Stadium and near-permanent financial peril – until recently – in which even the coaching staff was under pressure.

“We were perilously close to what happened to the Southern Kings,” he said.

“And then you know, we’re about to play the Bulls in one of the rounds and only to be called away from a training session to a management meeting to explain why you should remain as coach.

“It became like a kind of game to try to keep the big players. We knew if we could just keep Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, then we could secure Salmaan Moerat and Damian Willemse and others.

“It was literally done like that, to create a team that could compete. And that was all we thought we would do. We aimed for a top eight placing this season. Our aim was to try to win this competition in 2024 only.

“Then we went on tour and realised, hang on, there is something we can do here. I think some of the SA teams went on that first UK tour and came back with huge doubts, but we organically just grew as a team and came back a much tighter group.”

A group now eighty minutes away from a home triumph in the United Rugby Championship final.

READ MORE: Stormers back-row Evan Roos wins another award


The article United Rugby Championship: John Dobson reflects on ‘Sisyphean’ season appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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