Dobbo’s Diary: Opportunity over adversity

PUBLISHED: January 5, 2023

From playing a New Year’s match on a summer’s night in Cape Town on the 31st December, to playing in zero degrees in Scotland a week later. Some would say adversity; I believe opportunity.

The opportunity that speaks to me and the squad is that we can only be better for the challenge.

What has made this side so successful is that the boys embrace every match as an opportunity, and while it’s great seeing victory on the field, their improvement as players and individuals is the greatest win.

This weekend is another chance to continue our quest of entertaining, but not at the expense of playing intelligent rugby. It’s a thrill to be playing in two competitions running simultaneously. We have never experienced something like it before.

It is new terrain, but it is our entrance into glorious terrain that makes every individual an improved and more experienced individual. Equally, the coaches and support staff in management.

It also makes for a stronger South African rugby because players and coaches in all our regions become better for embracing concurrent leagues/tournaments as a learning curve, but not as an excuse. South African rugby’s strength is that there are options within those of us competing to win the tournaments.

We had 30 000 people at the DHL Stadium on the 23rd for our Christmas fixture against the Vodacom Bulls, and 15 000 a week later against the Emirates Lions on the 31st December. It will be a very different group watching this weekend, but there’s a lot of excitement going into the match, with some of the youngsters back from injury to bolster the efforts of our oldies.

While the travelling schedule is a fantastic opportunity, it is still a tremendous challenge, and one must remember that this competition is not won in January, it is won on the night of the final. We know this better than anyone else, having been one from six in the first year of the Vodacom URC and finishing as champions. But as we settled into the season, we pulled together a winning run, and thanks to an incredible away semifinal effort from the Vodacom Bulls against the table-topping Leinster we secured a home final and ended up winning the inaugural league.

So, the key this year is to be in a strong playoff position, but also to make it to the last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup. If we can achieve this, then our aim becomes a top eight and the road to the final in both competitions.

Our ambition is to continue to win and give chances to guys in the squad as we manage the player load of two tournaments, and we aware of what a challenge the next few months will be, but equally we embrace the excitement in, and the privilege of, just how blessed we are to be involved in both tournaments.
Hopefully the boys will be able to end your Sunday in style, but I’ll be chatting to you again from London next week as we prepare for London Irish in the Heineken Champions Cup.

A couple of weeks ago in Cape Town we managed a great win against them, but just a week later they went back north and beat Saracens, so we know that it’s a very different ball game playing them on their home turf, and all we can try and do is take our same style from Cape Town into the game, while making slight adaptations to what will be vastly different playing conditions.

I suppose my message is simple. We want to win, and we want to win in style. But it is a long season, in which we must balance our efforts across two highly competitive tournaments, so the most important thing outside of getting points is giving players opportunities and hoping that they thrive.

The structure of our season means this is possible now more than ever before, and where last year was a breakthrough for so many guys, I’m excited to reflect on this season at the end of the year and see the progress that has been made for the DHL Stormers in our quest to be among the most desired and potent club teams in world rugby.

Enjoy the South African sun in the next few weeks and hopefully we can add to the heat with our performances.

Much love