It’s been a breakthrough season for him individually so it was hardly a surprise to hear Ben-Jason Dixon describe the 2022/2023 term as a lot of fun. He played in a Vodacom United Rugby Championship final, and it was arguably a big mistake that he didn’t start in that game.
When Dixon came off the bench in the second half he did bring the combative presence that maybe the DHL Stormers needed in the first half on a field that turned the decider against Munster into a northern hemisphere game and mitigated against the fractured rugby that makes the X-factor of Hacjivah Dayimani such a threat.
Coach John Dobson admitted afterwards he’d made a few mistakes pertaining to the final, and that selection may have been one of them. He arguably also erred in not getting Dixon on quicker once it was obvious the DHL Stadium surface was going to make it a game where the players went into the trenches, which is when Dixon comes into his own.
Dobson also admitted he made a mistake in bringing a smattering of URC players back for the penultimate Currie Cup league match against Griquas. But while the lack of cohesion undeniably cost Province against a determined and motivated Griquas who were probably further incentivised by the appearance of URC finalists in the opposition team, Dixon did not let Dobson down individually.
STANDOUT FORWARD IN KIMBERLEY
The blindside flank was easily the standout forward on the field and did not appear as stung by the URC final loss six days earlier than some of his teammates. And he is determined to end his breakthrough season in fine style when WP host the Cell C Sharks in their final Currie Cup game, and probably their final game of the season, in Cape Town on Saturday.
The chances of WP progressing are minimal thanks to the reverse in Kimberley, but that is not deterring Dixon, who reckons he still has petrol in his tank as he goes out to on a mission that is similar to the team’s mission. Namely to sound off what has been mostly a successful season for Cape rugby in fine style.
Dixon feels they have something to prove if this will be their last game of the season.
“Although it's been a long season, I do not feel like I need rest now,” he said.
“I know our chances are slim, but I'm like, let's go and make it count. Hopefully, we can get into the playoffs. I know a lot of players feel this way.”
The 25-year-old started the season feeling he’d continue to be mainly a replacement, but he has produced some stellar performances that have even had the national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus raving about him. The plans for the Rugby World Cup have been in motion for a long time, so we won’t see him in France, but don’t bet against him being part of the next cycle building up to Australia in 2027.
BRINGS BIG UTILITY VALUE
The big point in Dixon’s favour is his ability to be equally good at both blindside flank and lock, with the latter position being the one he filled in what was arguably the performance that announced him as having arrived when the Stormers beat the Bulls just before Christmas.
There was much understandable angst when the influential presence of Salmaan Moerat was ruled out for the rest of the season and I was one who made the Stormers underdogs for that game on that basis. But Dixon fitted in easily alongside Marvin Orie and the Stormers won comfortably.
“I am delighted with how the season has gone. Thinking back to the start of the season I was wondering how it was going to look. I was thinking I was probably going to come off the bench in a lot of matches.
“I got to start in the middle of the season and it has been going well. I got a lot more game time from there and I didn’t expect to get so many opportunities at No 7 (where a path was paved for him by injuries to Dayimani and Evan Roos). Playing at flank has been a lot of fun. It’s a different game compared to lock.
“I felt like I had an opportunity to grow and it has been so much fun being part of the team and getting more opportunities to start. I realised you don’t get so many opportunities at this level. You are not going to be thrown in the starting line-up every week. So you have to make the most of it, take your opportunity when it comes.”
He’s done that and will be joining his teammates in hoping to finish a stellar season both individually and for Cape rugby with a flourish. And, as he says, it may not even be over yet if WP start the game, which is the last of the weekend, knowing they have something to play for. It’s unlikely, but who knows - maybe the stars will align for WP in the same way they did for the Stormers in the closing weeks of the URC season.