It is the old bull against the young bull in Cape Town on Saturday night in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final and it is the youngster John Dobson who is chasing an incredible third successive win against Jake White this season, writes Mark Keohane.
White’s Vodacom Bulls have dominated the South African rugby landscape ever since the 2007 World Cup-winning coach returned to South Africa after nearly a decade coaching abroad.
White’s relationship with the Bulls has been a match made in heaven and he has guided the Bulls to two successive Currie Cup titles, a Super Rugby Unlocked title and a South African Rainbow Cup Shield win. He also masterminded the Bulls’ famous URC semi-final win against Leinster in Dublin a week ago.
White, who as a coach has won nearly everything there is to win, is one match away from more silverware as the Bulls travel to Cape Town for the historic all-SA first ever URC final.
Dobson, a Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup title winning coach, will look to do the seemingly impossible and down White’s Bulls for a third time in competition in one season.
Dobson’s Stormers stunned the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria and then showed the win was no fluke with a thrilling 19-17 win at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town.
Dobson, after the second win against the Bulls, spoke of the magnitude of the achievement. It was a compliment to White and the quality of squad he has built in Pretoria in the last three seasons.
White’s Bulls significantly also lost both league matches to the Cell C Sharks but won the quarter-final play-off match with an 82nd minute Chris Smith drop goal.
The Stormers also claimed the SA Shield with an 81st minute score against the Scarlets in Wales and it took an injury time converted try to down Ulster 17-15 in the semi-final at the DHL Stadium a week ago.
Both coaches have experienced extra time wins. Both teams know how to fight until the final play and succeed in that final play.
It will be a fascinating final between the old bull and the raging young bull.
White is an exceptional coach, but it just seems right that the Western Cape born and raised Dobson be at the helm of this Stormers campaign and that he is the history-maker when it comes to being the first Stormers coach to win an international title.
The Bulls win against Leinster was huge, but if you are looking for rugby romance and fairytales, then Saturday night must belong to Dobson.
Dobson has, to borrow a phrase from an article I read this week, turned duds into dynamite and discards into desperados who, after just three wins in their first eight matches, haven’t lost in the last three months.
Dobson, three years ago, told me that he wanted his players to express individuality. He wanted recognition of class and culture and, mostly, suburb.
The Stormers, he told me, are a team for the people, about the people and the product of the people of the Western Cape.
Dobson gets it.
He understands the rugby culture of the Western Cape, and he also knows its rich but fractured history. His historian father made sure of this, which is why this is a match that Dobson, privately, will always dedicate to his old boy.
The Stormers of 2022 are a team accessible to all, representative of all and playing a final in a stadium that has never barred anyone on the basis of colour.
They are a team of champions, even before kickoff.
Who are you picking? pic.twitter.com/lrt45ln2DZ
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 16, 2022
— The Money Man SA (@TheMoneyManSA) June 15, 2022