Q&A: talking rugby with John Dobson


Q&A: talking rugby with John Dobson

The Stormers head coach took some time away from a pre-season camp with his team to speak to VRYE WEEKBLAD about all things Rugby World Cup … and his next novel.

  • 13 October 2023
  • Lifestyle
  • 4 min to read
  • article 3 of 20

1. When did your late father, Paul, first take you to watch rugby?

I first went to Newlands in 1974 as a four-year-old to watch the famous invincible British Lions tragically beat Western Province.

2. Who’s going to win the World Cup?

South Africa, relatively easily.

3. Which two teams will contest the final?

South Africa vs. New Zealand, the old classic.

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4. Your favourite player in the world? Why?

As a rugby-playing person, Siya Kolisi. The way he leads, puts his everything into everything, interacts with people and handles the massive demands on him as a role model is extraordinary. The number one. Purely for rugby entertainment, Antoine Dupont.

5. And when you were little?

Rob Louw. He seemed like a rebel against the system with his long, blond hair and his loose, fast, attractive way of playing the game and what he stood up for.

6. Favourite team in the world? Why?

DHL Stormers. Not that I'm biased! Just what it means to people in this region and our connection with them. But on a more serious note, South Africa, for a similar reason — what rugby can do for this whole country, as we've seen. The Springboks are the source of such national pride when we don't have a lot of excellence due to our circumstances. But style-wise, Fiji: they play how rugby would be played in heaven.

7. Least favourite team? Why?

England. For lots of reasons we all know. When they're on top they are insufferable and when they are average, like they are now, there's no excuse given the amount of players they have in their system. And it's not attractive rugby. 

8. The most underrated team(s) at the World Cup? 

I think people are starting to rate Fiji and the way they play rugby. Gosh, it's beautiful. But I think Wales for the remarkable fight and effort in taking quite a weakened team with such a poor rugby set-up at the moment and playing with such pride and fight. Portugal: for a bunch of amateurs, they have a sensational style of rugby and fight. And I played there when they were much worse.

9. Your 2023 rugby pet hate?

The 22-metre dropout when the team does not ground the ball and is held up. In essence you get punished for attacking nicely but only receive the ball again on your own 10m. A ridiculous law.

10. The funniest moment you have seen on a rugby field?

There is a clip this week, it's worth watching on YouTube, from a Scottish club game. A conversion to draw the game is missing and the team under the posts start celebrating. By mistake, one of the players  kicks the ball over the poles. It's very funny and worth a look.

11. Your worst ref moment?

Bryce Lawrence in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final.

12. Any superstitions around the game?

Whenever myself and co-coach Rito Hlungwani wore “yellow submarine” socks, we won a game without fail. So, we used to check on each other's socks before games. Then the socks got lost before last year’s United Rugby Championship final, so they have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

13. Have you  noticed any superstitions among certain players?

There was one player who felt he had to sit completely naked for about two minutes before putting his kit on. It was a little disconcerting.

14. Did you ever have doubts your project at the Stormers could succeed? 

Yes, a lot. It was a very bumpy road, to say the least. We knew it was the right project, we knew what our “why” was and what rugby should look like in this region, so having that clear goal was a great help. And we had the connection with “die mense". But sometimes it was desperate given our obvious failings off the field, infrastructure-wise and with all the noise. 

15. What was the secret of keeping your team out of the administrative turmoil? 

Just that, shielding the team from it and doing all we could to run as professional an environment as possible. Helped by some remarkable coaching and support staff, we are a very tight team in this respect. And the administration by South African Rugby took away all the noise, which helped immeasurably.

16. When is your third “Year of" novel due and which nasty sort of vegetable will feature after the gherkin and the turnip? 

I finished it a while ago, and it’s called Year of the Beetroot, but I’m not going to publish it until I’m fired from rugby or coaching club rugby again.

17. As a man of many talents and master's degrees, what would you have been, had rugby not intervened?

I had a sports media business that was paying the bills. I would’ve loved to have become a proper author, but that doesn’t pay the bills. I wouldn’t have made it as a lawyer.

18. Who would be in your Bok team if we reach the final?

The one they choose. They are on the ground there, know far more, and they have won a World Cup and deserve our trust.


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