CAPE TOWN - John Dobson is not your ordinary rugby coach. The Western Province mentor holds two Masters Degrees - one in Business Administration and one in Creative Writing - and is a published author and a one-time entrepreneur.
His choice of studies probably though best describes his approach to rugby too. This pragmatism and clinical aspect of the business half of his brain is what ultimately saw Province maintain their composure in a hard-fought 19-5 Currie Cup semi-final win over a Springbok-laden Golden Lions side last Saturday at Newlands.
But yet here in a “finals week”, and despite the daunting prospect of heading to Durban to face the Sharks in their own backyard for the golden trophy, Dobson wants his team to focus on doing the “pretty stuff” right again.
“I feel we have got a lot of confidence in our defence. We are doing a lot of the unpleasant stuff - like the cleaning and our chase lines were very good - but I would like to see a bit more excitement and rhythm on attack. That is probably the area we need to focus on,” Dobson said.
“We have been stressing the importance of the ugly stuff. Maybe we slightly off the pace off on the pretty stuff. We are going to work very hard on what we do in the opposition’s 22 this week. I think we will have a more attacking mindset than last Saturday. We need to create more opportunities for guys like Dillyn and Seabelo than we have last week.”
Dobson simply can’t help himself. “Attack is the DNA of this region” he admits, and having held a Newlands season ticket since his school days while also watching SARU Cup rugby “on the other side of the fence”, he knows all about the city’s famed history of running rugby.
But he also knows that he must have the right personnel at his disposal if he is going to attack a hard-running Sharks team. It is for this reason that Dobson, who was speaking to the media at Paul Roos Gymnasium, is likely to call on one of the famed rugby school’s most recent graduates.
Damian Willemse was still wearing the Paul Roos blazer last year, but it now looks likely that he could run out in the starting XV in the blue-and-white hooped jersey in a Currie Cup final.
Willemse has made massive strides in his first full professional season, and it was a surprise when he made way for the return of Springbok utility back Dillyn Leyds for last week’s semi-final, but it now seems Dobson may have a change of heart.
Leyds is a massive creative force for WP, especially from the fullback position, but Willemse possesses a stronger boot while is equally adept at running the ball back at the opposition.
The teenager also has the ability to create space for the players outside him due to his strength in the tackle and off-loading nous. This aspect of Willemse’s game is particularly attractive to Dobson, who expects the Sharks to kick much more than the Lions did.
Should Willemse get the nod, Leyds would move back to the wing with Ruhan Nel likely to be favoured over Dan du Plessis at centre for the injured EW Viljoen.
“We know EW is out, but Ruan did quite well there. We will decide between Dan du Plessis and Ruan. Probably be Ruan,” Dobson said.