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The South African rugby coach who loves Max Boyce

25 Nov 2023 3 minute read
DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson / Max Boyce’s famous Live at Treorchy album

Simon Thomas

Any Welsh rugby fans flicking through John Dobson’s record collection would be in for a pleasant surprise.

“I have still got a Max Boyce record,” declares the DHL Stormers coach.

“I’ve got ‘Live at Treorchy’. The one that starts with ‘9-3’. I think it may have been my father’s influence.”

Dobson’s father Paul was a hugely respected referee, journalist and rugby historian, who passed away in 2020.

“One of the last things I showed him was that Max Boyce poem ‘When just the tide went out’ about Covid where he mentions Alun Wyn Jones,” reveals John.

Chatting to Dobson, it’s clear he is someone steeped in Welsh rugby history and he’s keen to pass that on to his players.

“I tell these guys about the Pontypool front row and what rugby means over here,” he says. I have told them stories about Terry Cobner and Graham Price and how if Lord Lucan was to hide anywhere it would be on the wing for Pontypool! I just try sharing the tales.”

Max Boyce image by Bernard Mitchell

Dobson grew up being very much aware of the pivotal part Welsh players took in the triumphant British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 1974.

“That was the defining humiliation of Springbok rugby and it was largely Welshmen responsible – the likes of Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, JPR Williams.,” he explains. “I was only five at the time, but those names are massive in South Africa There are some people back home who have never got over that tour. Just recently, a new book came out about the trauma of the ‘74 Test series.”

Dobson continued: “In South Africa, we look at Wales as a rugby country, like we look at New Zealand. The stadium is right in the city centre and just the fact the name Cardiff Arms Park still exists means a lot, because I grew up with that. We love that rugby culture and we are aware of the folklore. You get the rugby feeling in this place. We think rugby is definitely the biggest sport in the Cape and you get that similar feeling here.”

Dobson was speaking ahead of the BKT United Rugby Championship clash with Cardiff Rugby at the Arms Park last night, a thrilling game which the home side narrowly won 31-24 thanks to a last-minute try from replacement prop Rhys Litterick.

The home side were second best in terms of possession and territory but were the more clinical to achieve a morale-boosting bonus-point win.

Cardiff’s other tries came from Gabriel Hamer-Webb, Liam Belcher and Mason Grady with Tinus de Beer adding four conversions and a penalty.

Ruhan Nel scored two tries for Stormers, Andre-Hugo Venter the other with Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu kicking three conversions and a penalty.


Last-minute try earns Cardiff thrilling win over Stormers

Live at Treorchy 50 years on: The story of Max Boyce’s famous album

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