Stormers need Dobbo’s gusto

Devin Hermanus

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the screenshot on social media of a beleaguered Robbie Fleck in the coaches’ box during the Stormers’ 40-3 mauling by the Bulls is worth a million.

The Stormers failed to match the intensity and skills of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in their Super Rugby opener, following a preseason overshadowed by a power struggle among officials. Reports also emerged that the Cape side didn’t play in their Marvel-inspired Thor jerseys at Loftus due to a dispute between players and management on the team bus.

It was the worst possible start to this year’s campaign for Fleck, whose team failed to win away from home in 2018 and missed out on the playoffs, and he is under increasing pressure in the final year of his contract at Newlands.

The Stormers are loaded with Springboks, including Bok captain Siya Kolisi, 2018 SA Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit and enforcer Eben Etzebeth, as well as X-factor players Damian Willemse and Sergeal Petersen. But with every defeat, ‘Fleckie’ faces renewed criticism of his coaching ability.

Western Province coach John Dobson is the front-runner for a promotion if Fleck gets the boot, especially after ‘Dobbo’ was recently linked with the Bulls and Irish Pro14 side Connacht.

He coached WP to the Currie Cup title in 2017, only to be beaten by the Sharks in the 2018 final after winning six matches on the trot in a shortened competition. His WP side also went unbeaten in the inaugural SuperSport Challenge in 2017, and dominated the round-robin stage of the 2018 edition.

Dobson has worked closely with the Stormers, where the breakdown was his area of expertise, but has shown that he is capable of a lot more. The former UCT coach would also be a cost-effective replacement for Fleck – Dobson signed a three-year extension with the cash-strapped WP Rugby union at the end of 2017.

Given the off-field troubles at WP Rugby, a poor 2019 season for the Stormers is likely to see more players join Kolisi, Du Toit, Etzebeth, Damian de Allende, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe on the list of high-profile stars expected to leave South Africa after the 2019 World Cup.

If unveiled as Fleck’s replacement, Dobson – who has built a culture of brotherhood and success with WP – could convince the likes of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Bongi Mbonambi, JD Schickerling, Dillyn Leyds and Wilco Louw to stay in the Cape. The WP boss also has a good working relationship with up-and-comers Juarno Augustus, Ruhan Nel, Kobus van Dyk, Ernst van Rhyn, Herschel Jantjies, Dan Kriel and Josh Stander, who have been instrumental to the Streeptruie’s success over the last two years.

In English Premier League football, Manchester United’s caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been a breath of fresh air for his former club, the Norwegian coach reviving stars such as Paul Pogba to win 11 of 13 matches since his appointment in December.

Dobson, too, could be the gust of wind that the Stormers desperately need to fill their sails.

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Devin Hermanus works in the SA media industry, eats chocolate cereal for dessert, plays darts in the dark, and hits the snooze button before waking up. Follow him on Twitter: @DevinMyles11

- Devin Hermanus

Let's chat

  • Pierre

    Agree, think Dobson is a great coach and you can see the players love playing for him. They should have appointed him as Stormers coach this year already.

    • Redge

      The problem in the Cape is not so much the coaches it’s the management. So many fat cats and egos to satisfy. Administrators that’s not there for the game but for the money and power. It’s a shame that WPRU is bankrupt. Yet another f up in the new,better SA

  • John Comyn

    Well researched and written. I understand that Fleck has the greatest respect for Dobo and visa vera. Dobo appears to be an excellent man manager. That said he can also get it wrong. He admitted he got it horribly wrong in last years CC final. To be outsmarted by Robert Du Preez sen. takes some doing. The other thing is there is a strong rumor that PDivy will get the job when Fleck’s contract expires. So we can expect a few players from The Delicious Monsters in Darling coming into The Stormers fold.

    • Devin Hermanus

      Appreciate the feedback.

  • Barry

    Well done Dev, good read!

    It is some times in circumstances of dire distress that people find strength within themselves and some how rise above the mess. It becomes infectious and very quickly, what looks to be a hopeless set of circumstances turns into triumph!

    In the best interest of South African rugby, one can only but hope that this will be the case on Saturday, no disrespect to the Lions!

    This can only happens though, if the core leaders step up and take responsibility. There is ample talent within their ranks, even without good coaching support! So messers Kolisi, Etzebeth, SdT, Louw, Van Zyl and Marais, the ball is in your court! Good luck.

    Oh, and don’t forget it’s the Thor strip on Saturday – thousands of kids are hoping!

    • Devin Hermanus


      For the benefit of the Boks and SA rugby, the Stormers need to be competitive.

  • Gerhard Botha

    If he have the stomach for the boardroom politics that is. Otherwise he will probably also move on. But yes, great coach.

  • boyo

    Thanks for the article Devin

    I think Dobbo needs to take charge sooner rather than later. If the Stormers lose the next two I think its time for change and he is already involved so a mid season transition wont be too bad.

    • Devin Hermanus


      It’s unlikely that Siya, Eben, PSdT & Co will still be Stormers in 2020 so it makes sense to give Dobbo a crack asap.

  • SweetAz

    Fleckie is not a great coach but the players need to take some responsibility and that comes directly from the leadership group. I have never rated Kolisi as a player or a leader at this level. The same for Etsebeth, so it would appear there really is a vacuum in the core leadership group that needs filling. At the Bulls, you have great leaders in Britz, Vermeulen, Lood and Pollard and I think that was pretty obvious in the way they managed the game and motivated their players last week.

    The decision not to take Schalk Britz and Duane Vermeulen by the Stormers management is really biting them in the arse now. Other than perhaps PSDT or Chris Van Zyl I don’t see too much leadership potential in that Stormers team so I expect another loss against the Lions.

    • Barry

      The concern is that the players you mention, also form the core leadership group in the Springboks. Are you saying that Erasmus has perhaps got it wrong?

      • SweetAz

        Strawman argument, Britz, Vermeulen and Pollard are also part of the Bok leadership group. Erasmus is handicapped by the 50% requirement. Let’s be honest with ourselves, are Mbonanbi, Kolisi, De Ellende, Willemse, Nyakane, Mahoje, Mtwarira, Ralepele, Mapoe really deserving of Bok colours? I have no problem with Am, Dyanti and a few others but for the most part the ones I have mentioned are either past their best or were never good enough. As I keep saying its not so much provincialism as quota,—if the Sharks Du Preez brothers and Akker VD Merwe were darker we would all be crying toooo many Sharks are getting selected.
        Rassie is between a rock and a hard place and I don’t believe any coach in the world has a chance of consistent success with the selection criteria imposed upon him.
        That is why you probably won’t get any decent International coach applying for the job.

        • Barry

          I would elevate PSDT in both camps. He’s a no nonsense kind of guy and without exception gives 100%. A bit of a Gary Teichman type of player and leader!

        • Barry

          Not trying to make any point – straw or not. Just interested in your comment regards Stormers leadership and the fact that fundamentally it’s the same core leadership group in the Springboks! Of the Bulls trio, only Pollard in fact played a role recently, Vermeulen was on sushi break and Britz didn’t play (but was paid!!)

          We’re talking leadership group and not general players, so the numbers game isn’t really part of the debate, except perhaps as far as Kolisi is concerned.

          Again, begs the question!

          • SweetAz

            Well, —Who would you put in that leadership group that isn’t currently in it?

  • Herman Schroder?

    SweetAz, Warren Whiteley is the ONLY captain in SA with true leadership qualities and ticks all the boxes assuming you are playing real rugby not this dom krag rubbish.

    Have posted my post mortem on the Stormers / Lions farce on the ‘Stormers buck trend’ site, for your edification of course.

    Got to love the Bok leadership group comments above. Bull / Jaguares match. Three of them – Vermuelen, de Jager and Pollard, lol. Final score : Jags 27 Bulls 12 ( no tries ). Oh well didn’t take long for that bubble to burst. Cheers.

    • Chris Mouton

      Yes, Warren is a good leader, but he’s very unlucky with injuries. There are just players that have a tenacity to get hurt and they shouldn’t be the leaders if they don’t play consistently, however inspiring they might be. Marcell Coetzee, Warren Whiteley, Patrick Lambie, to name a few, are among these unfortunate few. I’m personally hoping Mapimpi and JL du Preez can avoid this list.

    • Albert

      Stormers beat Lions. Hahahahaha!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Albert. No the home town officials did, lol. One win in four years ?? As they say in Afrikaans ‘ek bly liewers stil ou maat’ Cheers.

        • Albert

          But still, Stormers beat the Lions. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    • SweetAz

      You are so funny, Whitely is like a fragile girlie boy (As Arnie would say), I don’t think he will even play for the rest of the season. You cant have a Captain that’s broken more often than not. Other than him I suppose you would pick that clot Jantjies? Another girly Boy?
      You Lions people seem to like the gender confused types,—I hear Caster Semen jannie is interested in playing for the Lions. I suspect he/she could be used in the “hooker” position, where you have another limpwrist, -it must be limp because he cant throw a ball into a lineout.

      • Albert

        Come now Sweets, that was a bit of an emotional response and uncalled for. Attacking genders like that in this day and age is very insensitive. Normally I agree with you and we have good chats/debates, but let’s keep this sort of slander off the forum please.


        • SweetAz

          Sheeeesh man, don’t they do banter in your part of the world or have you been infected by the British PC virus?

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