URC loss ‘feels weird’ but John Dobson is optimistic about Stormers future

John Dobson walks on the field.

Stormers coach John Dobson is optimistic about his teams future. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published May 29, 2023


Cape Town - It is not all doom and gloom for the Stormers after their heart-breaking United Rugby Championship final loss to Munster on Saturday in front of a sold-out Cape Town Stadium.

Despite going down 19-14 against their fired-up Irish visitors, enough good things happened over the season for the Cape side to be optimistic about their future in the competition.

Munster defended for all their worth, nullifying the Stormers' potent attack and in doing so, secured a first title in over a decade in the competition.

Although the loss left a hollow feeling that will probably be there for months, Stormers coach John Dobson and his assistants can be very pleased with the squad depth they built.

This season, in the absence of guys like Deon Fourie, Evan Roos, Leolin Zas, and other injured players, plus the Springboks having a mandatory rest period after the November Tests in Europe, players like Marcel Theunissen, Ben-Jason Dixon and Suleiman Hartzenberg showed that the player stocks in Cape Town are in a positive state.

Where in the past, it would've been a scramble to replace a Fourie or Roos, several guys stepped up this season. And with an equity partner coming in in the next couple of months, Dobson is optimistic about the future of the squad.

“We really, really wanted to win this Cup,” Dobson said after his team's loss.

“But we also have to be disciplined and look at the bigger picture. We did

something special. At halftime (in the game) I told the guys we had some fault correction to do, and they got that right.

“At the start of the season, we did not write down ‘retain our URC title'. We wrote down ‘increase our depth', and prove that we belong at the top table of the URC and European rugby.

"And, increase the sense of belonging of everyone in the group, from the ground staff to everyone, even the non-playing squad. And to make Cape Town smile.

“Unfortunately, it (the loss) feels weird.”

Dobson said they are not there yet in terms of having enough depth in the squad to battle in the URC and Champions Cup, but that could change ahead of next season when the equity partner is in place.

It will allow him to expand his squad, and get in players who are more or less of the same calibre as Steven Kitshoff or Frans Malherbe.

“We are a way off that,” Dobson said on competing in the URC and Champions Cup with the same players.

“If we go off to La Rochelle for the semi-final (in the Champions Cup) and come back and play a URC quarter-final, we would not be here. It sounds like there are going to be adjustments to the (salary) cap.

“We need bigger squads. Our depth at the moment, is the guys who are doing well in the Currie Cup. They are really promising youngsters, but that's not going to solve the Champions Cup problem, not for a while.

“You almost need a model, let's say hypothetically, where you have a big European Cup game away, and Kitsie (Kitshoff) Frans (Malherbe) and Joseph (Dweba) went to that, and then you have a similar front row staying behind in Cape Town, prepping for the next URC game.

“If we go to Exeter, we should have a team back who is good enough to be able to beat Munster here.”

Dobson believes things will most likely happen ahead of next season in Cape Town as the equity deal is being finalised whereafter they will be able to invest in the squad.

He is looking at reinforcements at the sharper end of the squad.

“Our younger structures, pathways and depth are absolutely brilliant. We probably just need a few more players to compete.

“We've done this under administration, but that doesn't work under austerity,” Dobson said.