Stormers boss John Dobson has dedicated the United Rugby Championship South African Shield to the people, and especially rugby fans, of the Western Cape.
Whether the Stormers progress beyond the quarterfinals next weekend is another matter; for now Dobson is relishing the fact the Cape Town side are the best in South Africa.
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“Winning the shield has given us a sense of massive relief that we’ve restored some faith and pride in the jersey,” said Dobson on Wednesday.
“It means a lot to us, probably more than to some other teams given the trials and tribulations we’ve been through here.”
Rugby in the Western Cape has been rocked in recent years by boardroom battles, which resulted in SA Rugby stepping in. Several players, including Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, have also left the franchise in recent times.
“Western Province is a very proud union with a remarkable history,” said Dobson.
“We represent this amazing group of people in the Western Cape. It’s been tough for them to see what’s been going on here and giving them something to smile about was so important to us.”
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The Stormers’ inaugural URC campaign didn’t get off to the best start with one win from five matches. However, they lost just one of their last 13 matches to secure second spot on the points table.
“We hadn’t won a Currie Cup since 2017 and I suppose last year people were talking about the ‘big two’ … the Sharks and Bulls, which they are in terms of spending power,” said Dobson.
“We didn’t lose to the Bulls or Sharks in the local derbies, and that’s special.”
Dobson also revealed several big-name players, including Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Salmaan Moerat and Damian Willemse, had turned down offers to play elsewhere because they “stuck with us and believed in the project.”