'It has been absolutely awful'
INTERVIEW: The current product being dished up to audiences isn’t pleasant.
This, in a nutshell, is the view of Western Province coach John Dobson, who described 2020 as an “absolutely awful year”.
Dobson, asked to sum up the year, which is about to come to an end, said his team’s performances have been a “mixed bag”.
“We started Super Rugby so well,” he said of their 28-0 rout of the Hurricanes in Round One back in February.
However, that was also the start of a horrendous list of injuries that ravaged his team.
“[Most of] our World Cup Boks were out [injured] when we went to [play] the Sharks [in Durban] in the last round before lockdown,” Dobson told a media briefing.
He spoke of going six months without playing, the with the pall of a loss and the pandemic hanging over his team.
“Since the return, all the teams have faced the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dobson said.
“With three rounds to go [in the revamped Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup domestic competition] every team has lost at least two games.
“The effects of what has gone on this year has been felt across the rugby industry.
“The guys are still on quite big pay cuts and that has gone on much longer than initially thought by the players.
“Everybody is just fighting for survival.”
He said a combination of the frustration around the COVID-19 stresses and frustration around the laws haven’t made for a great product since the game resumed.
“If you saw the Super Rugby Aotearoa start, how the offside line and breakdown were policed, it has gone back – across the world – to something else,” Dobson said.
“Teams are scared of taking the ball into the breakdown, scared of giving away a holding penalty.
“We saw England making 52 kicks the other day.
“That product, in front of empty stadiums, isn’t pleasant for anybody.”
Dobson added that they have been trying to develop as a team, since lockdown, knowing where they are going to play from next year he said in reference to South Africa’s entry into the Rainbow Cup and Pro16 competitions.
“I is a style of rugby that is not everybody’s cup of tea,” the WP coach said.
“However, it is pragmatic for where we are going,” he said of the move to Europe.
Asked about the Rainbow Cup, which kicks off the April – with four SA franchises – Dobson described it as an ‘exciting’ prospect.
“If you told the New Zealanders they were going to do another double round of Super Rugby Aotearoa, you will have found the energy levels tough to keep up.
“The stimulation of playing in Europe, against some really big teams [Irish provinces like] Munster and Leinster, as well as the Scottish clubs – it is going to be a fantastic opportunity.
“The guys will enjoy the different rugby, enjoy a bit of travel – rather than the ‘us-versus-us’ [domestic] competitions.
“It is really exciting.
“For now we are just hoping to enjoy a good Currie Cup campaign.
“After that, we can look forward to the Rainbow Cup next season.”