Home #LoveRugby Jake White: What we need to do to save Springbok rugby

Jake White: What we need to do to save Springbok rugby



A respected rugby writer, Owen Slot from the Times of London, had an interesting observation about the future of Springbok rugby. He compared it to the situation faced a number of years ago by cricket in the Caribbean. Top players were lured to other countries by lucrative contracts and the game at home suffered as a result. Slot wrote: “The steady trickle of players going abroad at the end of their careers is now a tidal wave, and they don’t just go at the end any more, either. They go in their early twenties. The suggestion yesterday was that Eben Etzebeth, the South Africa lock, is soon to join Saracens. He is still only 24. This is the kind of player around whom the Springboks should be building their future, not waving goodbye to. In total, an estimated 350 of them are earning a living from the game outside of the country at present. Some say thatAllister Coetzee is close to losing his job as head coach. Of course they do. Yet, really, when you have a talent drain like that, what do you expect?” I spoke to former Springbok coach Jake White on Hot91.9 for his views on what could be done to stop the slide of South African rugby. – David O’Sullivan

A new style of rugby, a new game to take on the All Blacks. When you look at that performance against the Springboks, do you endorse what he is suggesting?

No, I don’t. I don’t’ think that our problem lies in how we’re going to play; I think our problem’s much greater than that. What he says is that we must stick to what we know best and I think that’s more relevant. We can’t be copying anybody and we can’t be trying to play like anyone else, so I don’t believe we playing the way we’re playing and getting results the way we’re playing is due to the style or lack of effort or lack of enthusiasm or different players are not trying to play for South Africa and trying their best to play South Africa. I think that the problem is much deeper than that, David. I think that this has been coming for a while now and unfortunately, these players and this coaching staff are bearing the brunt of the decisions that should have been made ten years ago.


What can be done now to rectify the situation? We have seen Allister Coetzee suggesting a coaching indaba, getting people together to start thrashing out ideas. Is that at least a good start or would you recommend a different tack?

Yes, look I don’t think that’s going to help because all that you’re going to hear from coaches that are in the system is exactly the same complaints that coaches within the system ten years are going to be saying again. The challenge is that whatever comes out or whatever meetings they have now, there has to be action and I don’t believe it has to do with any feedback that comes from the coaches, it’s about direction from the people that are making those decisions above them.

What would you like to see happen?

David, I think I suppose it’s like anything, what I’d like to see, what every supporter would like to see is just an understanding about what the next step is and clear indications of whether we’re all on the same page to take that next step, but the next step means that we have to minimise professional players, maybe reduce numbers, maybe strength-on-strength, Currie Cups maybe. Whatever the decisions are there has to be a clear message out to the people that watch rugby, that support rugby, that sponsor rugby to see whether or not all the decisions that are made are measured from time to time.

I think what people are saying now is that there doesn’t really seem to be a clear understanding about what South African rugby wants to get out of the next ten years, whereas I think that for me is the most important thing. We’ve let ten years go by, we’ve just drifted along, and I think there needs to be a clear understanding about what do we do next. As I said, it’s not just lip service and it’s not just meetings, it’s about a clear feedback to the stakeholders of exactly what is the guide it and what is the route forwards.

You’re suggesting a cleanout at the top; it’s the top management structures that need to be changed before anything’s going to change further down the chain.

Yes, I don’t know if I mean cleanout, I just think those people must, I suppose communicate exactly what the… I said it the other day, David, we’re saying that as supporters and as people who love rugby and as people who want to be the best in the world and I’m sure like all the supporters and fans that go and watch, they go “We lose, we lose”, but maybe South Africa’s vision is to consistently be in the top five in the world, you know maybe South Africa’s vision is to consistently be competitive in most competitions, maybe their KPI is to have a balanced team that plays relatively attractive rugby. I mean I’m not sure, but if it is that then we are in line with those trade key performance indicators and then anyone who’s outside saying it’s not good enough, well that’s not what SA rugby have in mind.

If SA rugby have in mind to be the number one rugby nation in the world, unless South African rugby come out and say that, well then you can audit every decision they make after that. So if you play Currie Cup Rugby on a Thursday night of Friday night in front of 10 000 people, well then that doesn’t really go hand-in-hand to becoming the best rugby nation in the world. If you’re not thinking overseas based players, or you’re allowing overseas-based players to go overseas and earn money like in Japan and then come back and play Currie Cup, well that then isn’t quite also allied to the fact that you want to be the best rugby team in the world. Then it becomes easy because then the public and the supporters and anyone involved in rugby knows that the mission is quite clear, we want to be the best rugby playing nation in the world, so then David, it’s very simple.

Every decision you make after that should encompass that mission and that means that you want a super rugby coach who’s going to apply and be good enough. If you want a national coach who’s going to apply and be good enough, if you’re talking about should you release players to go and play overseas and the answer is, “Does that improve the Springboks?” and the answer is “No”, well then you don’t release players to go and play overseas. As I said, it’s not an attack on any individual. I think that what must to come out is just a clear indication and a clear guidance as to exactly what is the next step towards.

We have the overseas tour coming up. It seems from what you’re saying if that is to rectify the situation it’s not something that can happen within three or four weeks. Do you anticipate that this, we’re heading for quite a miserable trip to the UK?

Yes, anyone who is involved in the sport will tell, if it was that easy, David, just to wave a wand and within a matter of four weeks change everything around, well then every country in the world would be doing it, no doubt and I go back to my point, it’s very simple David. I could give you a team now of players who didn’t play this weekend, who will try as hard to be Springboks and will try as hard on the field to play their guts out or try as hard to win games. That means that there are players, you can’t judge the players that are playing as saying, “You know, I heard stories about second half, they didn’t play like they had, you know they didn’t have emotion and they weren’t giving their all”.

I can’t believe that a player in the national team in front of his home crowd is not giving his all, so I must say David, I feel so sorry for everyone who is involved there because it can’t be fun. I think one of the things about growing up in South Africa is you really long for the day that you play for your national team. It must be so, so, so disappointing for all of those players, because they’re basically living their dream and it’s probably a bit of a nightmare for them because everything they do and everything they try is really not even helping.

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  1. Nah, there are no suggestions in that stream of consciousness interview. He’s saying that 10 years ago the wheels came off. 10 year ago is when White was forced out.

    White is a good analyst and selector, but the Boks need an innovator. We do t want another 65% above average coach with the odd win against the ABs, the Boks should aim to be the best no 1, nothing else.

    They need an innovator and a maverick.

  2. If South Africans just had rugby success as there sole driver – they’d be doing everything in their power to getting Mitchell on board.

    Give Mitchell 3 years and the Springboks will become the beast that they should’ve always been, not the insecure whipping boys of world rugby. It all starts from the top.

  3. @Craven: Nel does not know half the story and speculate…

    He is still on his Meyer love ride…

    I thought a journalist will at least gets his facts before talking so much shit but then again journalist like him and Keo use the media to hype up or bring down those they do not like.

  4. @Jacques:

    I just love how guys do exactly what you do know, tell readers that other journalists don’t have all the facts and are in effect, wrong about what they write. But you do not refute the points he makes with counter facts?

    Why do you not give us some detail on the problems at SARU instead of always referring to the “problems” in general terms? I would love to have detail on the issues and Brenden did provide some detail on what he saw as being wrong. You disagree, so how a bout some counterpoints then?

    We are not all involved with SARU and have inside info to understand everything. All we are getting from most journalists and TV pundits are that there are bigger issues than just the coach, but what are those issues in detail? We know about atuff like players leaving, weak Rand, and so on, but reading Duane’s comments it seems there are lots of underlying unhappiness among players that are not being aired.

  5. @Craven So where did Nel got his info? Had he spoken to SARU or Rassie himself?

    He is thumb sucking

    If you want to attack a person then make sure you have facts not opinion

    Because he is Nel and work for SS everyone believe every thing he writes? How naive

    He attack Rassie job and what he did and Rassie as a person, tell me where did he get the info from people who does not like Rassie?

    Have he spoke to Rassie? No
    Have he spoke to someone who worked in the mobi unit? No
    So must I just take his statement that people in the country that have worked with Rassie? Come on be seriouse man

    We all know that journalist do write also on their personal agenda and not facts

    Learned a hard lesson quickly when taking over from Morne here at Ruggaworld….. Dont believe what you see in media and social media, if you do you are naive

    Nowhere in his article he qoute any person ghat gave him true info it is all perception and his own words

    I get the feeling that media like these witch hunts

    But believe people like Nel writing nonsens with no facts and believe him if that makes it all better, I don’t

  6. And I did not say all are like that I pointed out Nel in this article and Keo

    I believe journalism that give facts not fiction of his or her imagination

  7. @Jacques:

    I did not really see much of an attack on Rassie but just some ‘here-say’ that he hardly pushed the point on… I certainly do not think Erasmus ever wanted to be Bok coach… he could easily have IMO (clearly he left for pretty much the same inferred reasons as at WP).The rest of what he (Nel) said during that pretty long-winded article is common-opinion already stated by many pundits…

  8. @bryce_in_oz: It was pretty damming Bryce

    Nel Said” There is no succession plan, no long-term planning for upskilling coaches and the rugby department that was set-up to change all that – to change the coaching system – is a bare soulless administrative office at the moment staffed by Saru employees who have neither the vision nor pedigree to create the long-term plan needed to take the country forward.

    But it isn’t their fault. They function to keep rugby alive. And for all the bravado that the Director of Rugby post was set-up years ago, its hard in retrospect not to see that the core function of the department seems to have been to return Rassie Erasmus to active coaching.

    Erasmus’ role was to develop coaches while SA Director of Rugby, but as time went on it became clearer and clearer that Erasmus had his eyes on the Bok role. And when he didn’t get it, he upped and left.

    Talk to those across the country who had dealings with the department and it becomes clear Erasmus left a wasteland in his wake, and since then Saru has not moved to replace him with someone visionary who can lead coaching forward in the country.”

    What was the mobi unit task?

    Maybe Nel must go and read on his own website

    “The HP Mobi-Unit is the brainchild of Rassie Erasmus, who was appointed as SARU’s General Manager of High Performance in 2012.

    He has contracted specialist consultants into the Mobi-Unit to cover key areas of play:

    • Pieter de Villiers, the former French international prop, will concentrate on scrumming
    • Louis Koen, former Springbok flyhalf, will be responsible for the tactics and practice of kicking play
    • Chean Roux, former Stormers looseforward and title-winning University of Stellenbosch coach, will be responsible for technical analysis
    • Jacques Nienaber, the highly-regarded DHL Stormers defensive coach, will advise on defensive play. Nienaber’s involvement will, however, only be outside of the DHL Stormers’ Vodacom Super Rugby commitments.
    • Rassie Erasmus, former Springbok looseforward and Absa Currie Cup-winning Free State Cheetahs coach, will concentrate on lineouts, gameplan and performance analysis.”

    Read the full article if you want…. http://www.supersport.com/rugby/blogs/brenden-nel/SA_rugby_needs_a_longterm_solution

    Don’t and tell me that Nel have facts, he suck it out and spread his witch hunt around which piss me off if he can not give me the clear facts which he does not do and do not have. Once he does that and spoken to Rassie himself to get the true story, I will maybe listen, he is just another SA Rugby writer trying to put his spin on things with no concrete proof.

    I do not blame people if you do not have facts that is my way of doing thing but seems I am alone in that.

    Where did he get that Rassie wanted the coach job? Speculations in the media only
    Where did he get Rassie left because he did not get the coach job? Speculations in media

    But all off this is damming against Rassie

  9. Rassie and/or mallet only 2 SA choices worth considering, maybe followed by swys/Ackerman to take over from them.

    Mitchell is exactly who is needed. He hates losing and won’t put up with crap from players even if it means his job. This time tho they must back him so that he can skop these big previous bok babas into shape.

  10. @Craven: Craven firstly…If you read my article it was that week in all the SA newspapers, I reported what was in the news.

    What Nel did was that agree with this what he state was what he got from his SA connections. He personally blamed Rassie on development of coaches and that is just plain dof

    How many changes have we seen at SR level in our franchises. How the F**** must Rassie have develop skills of coaches if the unions cannot keep them?

    We are being led by these guys that make out they have all the inside information.They like to give us so called truth which they just speculate on

    The Mobi unit dissolved and all the experts left because they were as gatvol for SARU and the way rugby is run in SA as Thor came out this week and all off us have been saying all along.

    Don’t think Pieter De Villiers will be there long anymore as well.

    We need a collective effort from all stakeholders in my unprofessional opinion.

  11. Very sad today.
    Had a dream last night where upon opening this article, Jake’s prescription consisted of just two words.
    ………………Disband ZeeBulls………………………..
    Alas….it was just a dream.

  12. @Bekke:

    Nah it’s a pretty good go-around…


    What… Zee Bulls currently have (outside of RJVR) the four best centres, best 7/8, best two wingers and best lock in RSA…


    Hates losing yet has done a hatchet job just lately in USA!

    Best fokop-fixer in world rugby is Jake White… nobody comes close… but I don’t want him in Bok rugby until things change drastically… the only way that is going to happen is when (as I predicted pre-season) they end the year with their worst record to date in the pro era…

  13. Bryce:
    Are you referring to ZeeBulls performance in Currie Cup – the competition that you say is defense-less & maybe even compared to touch rugby?

    Let’s see what Bikini-S & Sweets Marais can pull off in the big boy S18.
    I like RG Snyman & Burger Odendaal but I try not to look too much at ZeeBulls lest I turn into a pillar of salt.

    Lastly – The USA’s rugby union race is already run. Mitchell cannot be graded in such a medium. It would be like saying Picasso sucks because he’s lousy at adobe photoshop.

  14. Bryce.

    Yes white is a fixer and a v good coach, but the Boks need an innovator. They need a kiwi coach, the best. They need some external perspective and input.

    White’s coaching manual had been adopted by Coetzee. The kiwis and other teams have taken the best of the kick-chase kak and defensive kak and moved way past that.

    The modern game needs something more. It also needs youth, not judging how good a dude is by how many caps it can brag.

    SA rugby needs a shot in the arse of something v different to what it’s been imbibing the last 20years.

  15. White could have gone either way, I think he had it in him to go more expansive, but he’s just tightened up. The Boks need some free-range out-the-box thinking and a leader that picks and supports the kind of young players that can do that.

    Someone with presence who has a can-do have-a-go attitude, and is inspirational leader. That is not white or Coetzee.

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