FNB UCT head coach John Dobson, one of the country’s most promising coaches, has been handed a top coaching job in Italy.
Dobson – who guided the Ikey Tigers to the Varsity Cup play-offs in 2008 and 2009 – will join up with ambitious Italian club, Rugby Roma; the club that will form the cornerstone of the new Italian franchise The Roman Praetorians, that will compete in the Magners league and Heineken Cup from next season.
The Italian Federation (FIR) has decided to create two franchises to compete in the Magners Leagues to bridge the gulf between their Super 10 club rugby and the Six Nations where Italy have perennially struggled. The idea is to return a lot of their overseas-based players to these franchises to ensure easier progression and development to the Azzurri.
This new team will – along with another Italian franchise (the Aironi, from Northern Italy) – play in the 2010/11 Magners League (against the top Welsh, Scottish and Irish teams), whilst this season it will compete against the likes of London Wasps, Bayonne and Racing Metro in the European Challenge Cup.
Forty-one-year-old Dobson will initially serve as the club’s technical director as they start building the team with a view to taking over the reins as head coach at the start of the 2010/11 Magners League season.
And Dobson – in his role as technical director – will do five two-week coaching ‘blocks’ at the club over the next ten months.
“It’s certainly an exciting challenge and one I wasn’t able to turn down,” said Dobson, who will remain in charge of UCT until the end of the 2010 Varsity Cup.
“I still have plenty of unfinished business at UCT, in particular in the Varsity Cup, and I look forward to finishing my tenure there on a high,” he added in conversation with varsitycup.co.za.
“When Fleckie and I took over we always had a three-year vision and with next year being the third (year), I think the time is right to move on to another challenge. The nice thing about this interim structure (over the next few months) is that it will allow me to fulfill my various responsibilities at UCT, as well as my business commitments in Cape Town.”
Dobson, the man credited with putting UCT rugby on the map in recent years, is hopeful that the Ikeys will able to secure a successor before next year’s Varsity Cup, which would then allow him time to work with the new coach.
“That’s the plan,” he explained, “I certainly don’t want to dictate things to the new coach, but I think some continuity could be good for UCT.”
Looking ahead to his new job, Dobson continued: “I’ve had plenty of discussions with Rugby Roma and there is a lot of excitement there about the new franchise and the opportunity of playing in the Magners League next season.
“The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has a lot riding on this new franchise, so there will certainly be a lot of pressure come next season, but right now all I’m thinking about is meeting the likes of Wasps, Bayonne and Metro in the European Challenge Cup… That’s quite a challenge in itself!
“It will take a season or two to build this new team and club,” he added, “but they’re already made one or two useful signings – in the form an Argentinean and a couple of Italian internationals – and I will certainly be doing my utmost to build this club into an Italian powerhouse.”
The Roma Praetorians will be based in Rome and will play at the city’s Stadio Flaminio – the venue of the Italian national side, who, of course, are coached by South Africa’s Nick Mallett.