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The question that 'dominated the changing room chats' in SA this week

By Warren Fortune
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Stormers head coach John Dobson hopes the United Rugby Championship can continue as planned in the new year, after disruptions to Round Six and Seven.

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South Africa’s four franchises were set to enjoy home games against European sides in those rounds, but it was called off due to the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant.

The four travelling teams – Munster, Cardiff, Scarlets and Zebre – scrambled to get out of the country late last week.

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Stormers backline coach Dawie Snyman talks about the changing URC landscape
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Stormers backline coach Dawie Snyman talks about the changing URC landscape

The Scarlets and Zebre only left the country on Sunday, while Munster and Cardiff, who were set to leave on the same day, remained behind after positive COVID-19 cases in their ranks.

The majority of Munster’s squad eventually returned to Ireland on Wednesday, while Cardiff only left the country on Friday.

Dobson, whose team was set to play Zebre last Saturday, said there were questions on whether games could have been played while those teams were still in the country.

“It’s a good point that has dominated the changing room chats over the last week,” said Dobson.

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“I don’t want to say anything out of turn, but if the teams were still here on a Sunday or a Monday or Tuesday, then for the integrity of the competition it would have been great to have played [those games].

“I wasn’t part of the [discussions around the] deeper reasons why we couldn’t play.

“Everybody was asking me why we didn’t play.

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“We haven’t got an answer.”

The Stormers coach hopes better decisions are made around these issues in the future.

“I think a lot of people in a lot of sports around the world have gone through a helluva lot,” Dobson added.

“I just hope there is a balanced reaction to it and not sort of pulling the plug on the whole thing.

“We saw on tour this competition has enormous potential.

“I would have loved these two weekends to have taken place.

“We went up there to strange conditions. We went to places we have never been before, with referees we hadn’t had before and all without our internationals.

“I hope we can get back to playing those games in the new year.

“I hope we can sort the travel stuff out sooner rather than later, so that we can still play Zebre here and that we can still go over there and play Scarlets.

“I think any other construction will be tough for the tournament to have a really great season. It’s got so much potential.”

The Stormers will face the Lions in Cape Town on Saturday.

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