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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Stormers coach John Dobson through the eyes of those who know him best

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Cape Town – Stormers coach John Dobson has fast developed cult status in the Western Cape for awakening a sleeping giant of South African rugby.

Dobson’s appeal though is not just due to the scintillating rugby his team plays out on the park, but for his ability to connect with the “mense”.

We caught up with a couple of individuals who have walked the long road with Dobson to find out a little more about this unique rugby coach, who holds Stormers Masters degrees in both Business Administration and Creative Writing.

Nick Mallett (former Springbok coach)

Dobbo is a very intelligent guy. He has a high level of emotional intelligence. He deals with people very well. He understands rugby is a game of 15 players playing together, it’s more about the cohesive unit than it is about individuals being outstanding, and therefore without them you can’t play.

He believes that it’s within a happy environment that people can come out and perform well. He is completely ego-less, quite happy to debate everything with his assistant coaches, happy to call in people to help, and quite happy to ask his captain and players for their opinions. It’s a collective coaching group, and every coach knows that he has an opinion and it will be valued.

Each player also knows that Dobbo will listen, and as a head coach that’s a very important trait.

You get different types of coaches. People that have played the game at a high level, and then they move into coaching and they are intellectually very good about it. I think someone like that would be Victor Matfield, he is a brilliant line-out coach, and he could take those skills into being an assistant coach.

Dobbo’s level of playing was never at the highest level, but he loves the game so much and – because of his intelligence in other areas of life – it has allowed him to study it and understand it, in a way that a guy for who it comes easily doesn’t. The teaching background, his father (Paul Dobson) was a school teacher and the genes run through him.

Howie Kahn (former Rugby365 digital business partner and Leicester Tigers and WP Rugby media liaison)

He makes people feel like they belong. I’ve worked with the oke for many years. He makes everyone feel included, from the groundsman to the tea lady, he makes them all feel like they belong there.

That’s what he is doing with the fans as well. He is making them all feel like they are a part of the process.

If you look at where the team was two-and-a-half years ago… there was no money, no crowds. On their first URC tour they were eating McDonald’s for lunch, never mind Dobbo was putting his own credit card behind the bar to subsidise the socials, and look where they are now!

A lot of the guys in this final have been part of the journey from the start. I started working for him when I was 16, on a work shadow, and then he pulled me out of class to come and work at Rugby365, which was my first full-time job.

He always made it fun. It is about coming to a place where you enjoy working. All the players used to moan about coming to the HPC in Bellville, and then he decorated it and made it fun.

He’s always had an open-door policy. He ran the business in the same way he ran a rugby team. It’s all inclusive.

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Dobbo’s main characteristic is his generosity. He does so many things that people don’t know about, and in truth he doesn’t want people to know about it.

But there are just things that separate him, like he paid for a worker’s funeral. He put so many people through university, organising bursaries, and if he couldn’t get that right, he would dig into his pocket.

He also comes from a really good family. If you think about all the people they have helped along the way. I remember a conversation with Paul, his father, when he told me people would go up to John when he was kid and ask, “Are you Paul Dobson’s son?”, and then in the past few years people would ask him, “Are you John Dobson’s father?”, so they are just a really great rugby family.

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Don Armand (Former Ikeys, Stormers, Exeter and England flanker)

Dobbo is way more than rugby. He epitomised culture and is just such a good person and that shines through what he does with his team.

He makes sure he gets the right people; it’s not necessarily the best people, but in doing that he gets the best right people.

Since I’ve known about Dobbo, it’s been about improving the individual to be a better person. So there are just so many lessons that you learn, which builds your character and what it means to be a good person and what encapsulates being part of a rugby team, that means far more than the performance or results.


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