We did our best to keep Bongi Mbonambi, says Stomers coach John Dobson
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CAPE TOWN - Stormers head coach John Dobson says Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi’s move to the Sharks is for reasons beyond their control.
Yesterday it was confirmed that the World Cup-winner will complete a move to the Durban side later this year, and while Dobson said they “did their very best” to keep the first-choice hooker during the World Cup in the Cape, his move could create some opportunity for fellow Bok No 2 Scarra Ntubeni.
“We were a bit surprised by the Sharks’ announcement today because normally we work together with them on that,” Dobson said. “I think I have been pretty open with you, we have been dealing with Bongi over the last five or six months.
“There are other considerations in play that I don’t want to go into and I certainly don’t want to be at the root of discussing players or salaries and that sort of thing. I am absolutely convinced that we did our best to keep Bongi in terms of finances and environment. We went on a nice camp to the Wilderness in March and he spoke about how happy he is here. I am not going to disclose his personal reasons, but we knew he was going to go to the Sharks.”
Dobson added: “We’ve got some plans around it – I am not saying it as some sort of post-justification. We have two Springbok hookers in the Springbok squad – Scarra has worked really hard, got his weight down, so maybe it does create more opportunity. Of course, we would have liked to keep Bongi, but we certainly did our very best. We even offered him a sabbatical if he wanted to go and earn money in Japan. His move is for reasons probably beyond our control.”
Wing Edwill van der Merwe is also understood to be on his way out of the Stormers camp later this year, with Dobson describing his situation as “not dissimilar” to Mbonambi’s.
The Varsity Cup legend has been sensational for the Stormers during their Rainbow Cup SA campaign, and while his departure will be a blow, the Stormers mentor explained that they wouldn’t have been able to guarantee him consistent starting berths given their depth out wide.
“We have had him (Van der Merwe) in our system for five years and he has been absolutely brilliant for the last while,” Dobson said.
“We know he got an offer from the Lions which he intends to accept, if he hasn’t accepted already. The issues there are two-fold. We made Edwill an offer quite a few months ago and we even sharpened the offer upwards before he played these three games where he played so well.
“He was considering that, but there are some personal reasons. I don’t want to speak out of turn … he wants to play overseas, and to get that visa you need to start PRO14 rugby in 74% of games. In the same period of contracting we’ve got the likes of Seabelo Senatla, Sergeal Petersen and Angelo Davids, who we think is going to be a real star, and we also have Leolin Zas under contract. So, it’s difficult for me to say to Edwill will get his visa because he’s going to start 74% of our games.
“I’m genuinely pleased for the way things are going for him. It’ a blow to lose him, it certainly would have been a selection headache.”