Ernst van Rhyn and John Dobson. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
- John Dobson believes his Stormers and the British & Irish Lions can play some part in providing hope from this week’s devastating riots plaguing parts of South Africa.
- But the Stormers coach also says local rugby deserves credit for “heroically” ensuring the current tour is still going ahead.
- The Stormers would’ve supported another SA ‘A’ at their expense if it would’ve helped the national cause.
Stormers mentor John Dobson has joined the chorus of individuals believing the British & Irish Lions tour plays a small part in helping South Africa cope with the rioting and looting that’s devastated parts of the country.
However, after finally naming his team to face the touring side in Cape Town on Saturday after a week of uncertainty over whether the game would actually take place, he also believes rugby should give itself some credit for navigating these challenging times.
“It’s been a very disturbing week, quite tragic really,” Dobson said on Thursday.
“Rugby – and I’m really not saying that we’re trying to be self-serving – is an opportunity to entertain and distract people a bit from the crisis our country is in.
“We don’t want to create the impression that we’re engaging in frivolities, there have (been a lot of sacrifices) on this tour from the Lions and South African side – the rugby community in general. The fact that this tour is going on positively heroic.
“It’s for the good of the people. We could’ve complained about a million things in terms of Covid disruption, but there’s been a real determination to keep calm and carry on for the right reasons, I suspect. We can be proud.”
The build-up to the fixture has been overshadowed by Rassie Erasmus more than once expressing his preference for the Stormers match to be scrapped in favour of another South Africa ‘A’ meeting with the Lions, not only for Covid safety reasons but to also improve the Springboks’ match fitness.
Dobson admitted “no formal communication” from SA Rugby was ever really forthcoming, a clear indication that such a decision had never lain with the local governing body itself but with the Lions.
For his part, Warren Gatland insisted from the outset that he didn’t want the Stormers replaced as opponents.
The Capetonians themselves wouldn’t have revolted had they not been able to fulfil the fixture, but the disappointment would’ve been tangible.
“For our players, we’re thrilled the game is going ahead even though we would’ve acted in whatever was the best interest for South African rugby. It’s a tricky position. You want the players to experience what is a great occasion and you want to help the national cause,” said Dobson.
He also understands why Gatland is so keen to complete the last provincial fixture of the tour instead of playing what – as evidenced by SA ‘A’ winning 17-13 in Wednesday’s encounter – would amount to another Test match.
“I completely understand Warren’s position. By playing the provincial teams, you’re keeping intact what is essentially the integrity of a tour.
“We would’ve gone with whatever we were told to do. Maybe Warren believes a week out from a Test is a nice opportunity to ge through some patterns and our jobs will be to disrupt that,” said Dobson.
Kick-off is at 18:00.
15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Leon Lyons
Substitutes: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Sandi Sazi, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Thomas Bursey, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Juan de Jongh
British & Irish Lions
15 Stuart Hogg (captain, Scotland), 14 Josh Adams (Wales), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Marcus Smith (England), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 6 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 5 Jonny Hill (England), 4 Adam Beard (Wales), 3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Rory Sutherland (Scotland)
Substitutes: 16 Jamie George (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (England), 18 Zander Fagerson (Scotland), 19 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 20 Sam Simmonds (England), 21 Gareth Davies (Wales), 22 Chris Harris (Scotland), 23 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)