Currie Cup

Dobson era begins with bang

2015-08-08 09:32
John Dobson (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - It is absurdly early to judge just how much John Dobson, new coach of Western Province, will differ in his ways from long-serving predecessor Allister Coetzee.

What can be said is that the defending Currie Cup champions put Dobson’s supposed butterflies in the lead-up - was the crafty character deliberately talking up Griquas while well aware of their limitations? - firmly to rest by romping to a 43-19 tourney-opening win in Kimberley on Friday.

It was done by six tries to three and mostly with crackle and composure: the only period in which Dobson’s nerves may have been tested was a stint of 20 to 25 minutes in the second half when his charges started breathing heavily in the unseasonal warmth and had to repel a fightback of sorts.

But then an encouraging second wind kicked in and Province were back well on the front foot when the final whistle went.

It was a satisfying outcome for the rookie coach, who had gravely suggested a few days prior: “This game is a banana skin of note ... we would be happy just to come away with a win (minus four-try bonus point).”

Yet many WP fans - including a fair tally based in the diamond fields, it seems - would have watched this one perhaps more interested in banking some thoughts on the “Dobson formula” than because of any genuine fears the minnows might prevail.

After all, it was the first time since the end of the 2007 campaign that they were seeing a “Streeptruie” team coached by anyone other than Coetzee, now employed in Japan.

The first thing to remember is that Coetzee, for all his detractors, undoubtedly had a track record for putting out both Province and Stormers teams that were consistently tough nuts to crack, even if their brand of rugby was quite often branded joyless and overly conservative.

But certainly in his seventh and last Currie Cup year, at least partly prompted by the wishes of his director of rugby Gert Smal, WP found regular dynamism in playing style and deservedly went all the way to the title - Coetzee’s second at the helm and fourth appearance in the showpiece fixture under his charge.

So it will be a while yet before anyone can feel remotely justified for suggesting with confidence that Dobson is either taking the province to a new, superior level ... or, indeed, even dragging them backwards.

Just for the record, in the lone clash with Griquas last year, at Newlands, Province won 36-12 - exactly the same 24-point margin registered under Dobson’s guiding hand on Friday!

There were other reasonably uncanny similarities with trends from last year: just for starters, opening try scorer Nizaam Carr looked a much revitalised player at No 8 from the one who generally disappointed in Super Rugby 2015, and much more like the man who lit up the domestic competition in 2014.

Then Seabelo Senatla, the wiry left wing wizard, also rewound the clock to some electric showings last season and was a constant menace either in generous or limited space; he was a sound choice for official player of the match.

And if there will always be mixed feelings about flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, playing his last competition for the Capetonian franchise this year, he could also be said to be up and running in the 2015 version after jointly topping the points-scoring list with Jacques-Louis Potgieter last season.

Not only did he land his usual high percentage of place-kicks, but his general game was creative and cool-headed, including some deft passing in the lead-up to a couple of touchdowns.

Toetie v Dobbo? Let’s wait for another day - or week, or handful of months even - to pronounce firm judgement over who fits the WP coaching shoes best.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    wp  |  currie cup  |  john dobson  |  cape town  |  rugby

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