Dobson, Fleck on same page but with different pressures

John Dobson (Gallo Images)
John Dobson (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - One of the struggles in South African rugby, and an area where New Zealand is superior, is alignment. 

Because the Kiwis have one central paymaster - New Zealand Rugby - their Super Rugby sides play with the aim of ultimately benefiting the national team. 

There is a style and a framework that New Zealand's Super Rugby sides work within so that when the players are called up to the All Blacks, they are all on similar pages. 

It is what former Springbok coach Allister Coetzee tried to do with his highly-publicised coaching indaba in 2016. 

Historically, Bulls rugby has always been different to Sharks rugby, which has been different to Lions rugby, which has been different to Springbok rugby. 

It has created a situation where South Africa is rich in quality players who set the stage alight at franchise level, but the difficulty has come in getting all of those players firing together in unison in the national side. 

South African Super Rugby sides, with their privately-secured investors, have their own pressures.

As a result, coaches are thrown into a cut-throat world where results matter most. 

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck, for example, is currently under pressure. 

While resting Springbok captain Siya Kolisi following the June internationals against England would have been beneficial to the national side, Fleck needed a win and opted instead to take his skipper to Argentina for what was effectively a dead rubber against the Jaguares in Super Rugby. 

These are some of the complexities facing the game in this country. 

Fleck was present at Newlands on Thursday, watching the Western Province Currie Cup side train ahead of their clash against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday. 

WP are in fantastic form so far in the competition with two convincing wins, but the Stormers struggled in Super Rugby in 2018, missing out on the playoffs. 

It has left Fleck in the firing line, but all indications are that he will be in charge when the 2019 season kicks off. 

"Fleckie is with us pretty much all the time and at every meeting," said Province coach, John Dobson after naming his team for the weekend.

Dobson, though, is under his own pressures to win the Currie Cup again this year, and he went on to explain how using the tournament as a way of working towards Super Rugby was complicated. 

"Western Province is often an easy union to knock, but in this region, we have to compete in both competitions. We're not a union where we can tell the people who buy the jerseys that we're not going to try and win the Currie Cup," he said.

"We can't sacrifice one competition for another. It costs money.”

The union is trying its best, however, to create that alignment between Currie Cup and Super Rugby. 

Fleck's whole mission has been based around transforming the Stormers into an attacking unit that thrives with ball-in-hand and using quick offloads. 

So far this season, it seems that WP are on the same page, but Dobson will have to change things depending on who the opposition is.

"We sat down after Super Rugby and identified where we needed to go in terms of our technical development," he said.

"Maybe we in the Currie Cup are doing phase one and Fleckie will go on and do phase two, because you can't flick a switch and change it overnight.

"We try and keep on the same technical page."

There will, however, be room for originality in approach. 

Dobson, for example, plays classical music over the stadium's sound system during training sessions.

Fleck jokingly says that it is "soothing" for the players, but it is one of Dobson's quirks that makes him unique. 

"The flavour more comes in with the selection of the team, the team vibe and the work ethic. That's always going to be campaign to campaign," Dobson added.

The only main aim for the union now is winning the Currie Cup.

"We have to be respected in our quest to win the Currie Cup," Dobson said.

"If Thelo Wakefield, Paul Zacks or Gert Smal said we're using the Currie Cup as a development tournament then the faithful won't be that impressed."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 15:00

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