Stormers head coach John Dobson.

Stormers head coach John Dobson. Photo: Supplied.

STORMERS EXPLAINER: How Dobbo dabbled in making it to the Big Dance 

How John Dobson turned an unsettled Stormers squad in disarray into a group of perennial winners.

Stormers head coach John Dobson.

Stormers head coach John Dobson. Photo: Supplied.

John Dobson takes great pride that it has taken close to 60 players to get the Stormers to a second successive Vodacom URC Grand Final.

ALSO READ: Everything match-going fans need to know

He is even more delighted that the defending champions will play at their Cape Town home, the DHL Stadium, in front of a record crowd for any league or play-off match in the Vodacom URC.

Dobson’s Stormers have broken record after record in losing just eight from 41 matches since the Vodacom URC was launched. Saturday’s Grand Final against Ireland’s Munster will be the Stormers’ sixth successive Vodacom URC home play-off match. If the last two are the barometer, the match will again provide for a rugby carnival.

The Stormers put 40-plus points past the Vodacom Bulls in the quarter-final and Ireland’s Connacht in a thrilling semi-final. They are a group that knows how to score tries, but equally, they know how to defend their try line and scrap for survival.

ALSO READ: URC Grand Final — Thousands of travelling Munster fans to paint Cape Town red


The South African National Afrikaans Sunday Newspaper ‘Rapport’ headlined the semi-final win against Connacht as the work of ‘artists and streetfighters’. According to Dobson, it was the most accurate description of the Cape-based franchise and the biggest compliment.

“It is exactly what these guys are: artists in the way they can fashion tries and create attacking opportunities, but the toughest of streetfighters. They will go into any alley and any gutter and do what is necessary to survive. And they can turn on the magician switch on a minute later and score from 80 metres with the most sublime awareness of space, support runners and accuracy in execution.”

ALSO READ: Over 1.6m fans help to smash overall attendance record for URC

Dobson’s Stormers have revelled in being true to their colours and identity. The DNA of rugby in Western Province is how the DHL Stormers play. They are a mix of magicians and mongrels, which you will find at every school and club occasion in the province.

Winning has been important, but how the squad has won has transformed the DHL Stadium from a ghost town post the Covid pandemic to a thriving threatre of rugby dreams.

Dobson, just months before the start of last season’s URC, lost several 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks to other clubs in South Africa and abroad. These included the inspirational Siya Kolisi, the 2019 World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, centre Damian de Allende, as well as Springbok prop Wilco Louw and winger Dillyn Leyds, who has won back-to-back Heineken Champions Cup matches for French club La Rochelle. 

ALSO READ: Italian referee to whistle URC Grand Final between Stormers and Munster

At the start of this season, he lost Springbok utility back Warrick Gelant to Racing 92, while Sergeal Petersen departed to Japan’s Shimizu Koto Blue Sharks. Several other prominent talents also sought a future elsewhere.

It did not deter Dobson, and he started a more painful than pleasurable rebuild in the opening six weeks of last season when the Stormers won just one from their first five. Context to this is that they have lost just eight from 41 and went 21 matches unbeaten at home before losing in the league to Munster.

ALSO READ: City of Cape Town extends park and ride options for Stormers v Munster URC final


Dobson’s focus this week has been on the special squad he has built over the last two seasons and on a playing group that extends whoever is in the match-day 23. He has had to balance playing in the Vodacom URC, the Champions Cup and the domestic Currie Cup, and he and his coaching team oversee both the DHL Stormers and Western Province squads.

“It has been one hell of a ride,” says Dobson. “We’ve travelled so much to be there for both teams and the integration has been of one large squad going from the URC into the Champions Cup and back into the Currie Cup and back in the URC. It has been one lesson after the other but there have been so many victories, internally and on the field, along the way.”

“The reward has been there for us as a coaching and management team because of the efforts of these players and their reward was that the Cape Town Stadium sold out in two hours and twenty six minutes. It showed how much the local supporters want to be at the Cape Tow Stadium on Saturday and how they want to turn that stadium into a sea of blue.

“The support gives me goosebumps, but the players also provide the goosebumps in their dedication and desire to consistently perform for themselves and their support base, which, for me, is unrivalled.”

ALSO READ: Munster get timely boost as Springbok giant returns to front Stormers in URC final

Dobson’s mantra two seasons ago was that for every departing Springbok, they’d make new ones, implement a playing style to make everyone smile and win more than they lose.

And he has done just that to get to a second successive Grand Final, or as he put it, the league’s ‘Big Dance’.

ALSO READ: Stormers URC Grand Final tickets sold out

Dobson Stormers Springboks
John Dobson is committed to the Stormers. Photo: Twitter