Appointing Jake White in a mentorship capacity is the only way to save the struggling Springboks, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day.
SA Rugby’s operational boss, CEO Jurie Roux, has a professional responsibility to make the right rugby decision and bring back the 2007 World Cup-winning coach to mentor struggling Bok incumbent Allister Coetzee through his four-year tenure.
White is the only viable option if the intent is to invest in the right rugby professional because the focus is on what is best for the national team, as opposed to what suits the personal agendas of those who serve their own egos in the guise of custodians of the game of rugby in South Africa.
Coetzee, White’s assistant coach from 2004 to 2007, is not good enough to lead the Boks without the guidance of a mentor whose passion is Springbok rugby and whose only desire is to be involved with the Springboks.
Those opposed to White’s involvement in Springbok rugby – and they include the core of the 14 provincial elected presidents – won’t give you a rugby reason, because they can’t.
They’ll insult his personality and tell you his sort isn’t good for Springbok rugby.
And in the same breath they’ll defend their decision to invest in coaches and make appointments that have little rugby merit or result-based reward.
White is the most successful South African professional coach currently actively involved in the global game. He is the most experienced, and he is a World Cup winner.
White’s 2007 Springboks were the world champions, whereas Rudolf Straeuli's Boks were labelled as chumps for their abject failure at the 2003 World Cup.
White transformed the image of Straeuli’s infamous 'Kamp Staaldraad' Boks, beat the Wallabies and All Blacks in successive weekends in South Africa in 2005 with match squads that included nine and six black players respectively, and proved that with the right talent identification and belief, a Springbok team can transform and win.
Transformation is not an excuse for failure but it is the mask South Africa’s national rugby leadership has conveniently used to hide their absolute inadequacies when it comes to on-field decisions.
Coetzee coached the Stormers for six years and never won Super Rugby. The investment in Coetzee as Bok coach had no rugby merit.
His appointment was made by a national rugby executive who offered up Coetzee to the government as a symbol of transformation because of the transformation apathy of the Regan Hoskins 10-year presidential era that did nothing to advance the merits of the Springboks.
Coetzee can only continue if he is given the support of a rugby boss in White, whose ambition is to make it work for Coetzee, as opposed to show up his failure to be the right choice.
White is also the only South African professional coach who wants to be involved, and believes the Boks capable of transforming and challenging the All Blacks as the game’s best team.
White has also publicly said every transformation target could be met with the right identification of talent that included non-negotiable investment in those players.
White wants to be in South Africa and leading Bok rugby’s resurrection. He doesn’t have – and has never had – the escape of another profession.
Nick Mallett is a brilliant rugby brain and was one of the world’s best international coaches, but he has opted to invest this intellectual capital in being an analyst to SuperSport and other international media platforms.
Brendan Venter is another world-respected South African with the intellect and coaching pedigree, but his full-time job is being a doctor. He too doesn’t want a full-time association with the Springboks.
White’s passion is for the Boks and he would be an ally to Coetzee. White wants to be a part of the Bok solution and not be a media voice that highlights the obvious disaster.
Coetzee simply isn’t a good enough selector or head coach to fix the mess of the 2016 Springboks.
White has repeatedly told Coetzee, privately and in media interviews, that he is a phone call away. Coetzee has been too insecure to invest in White’s rugby brain.
White formally approached Hoskins and Roux to offer his services to the Boks and Coetzee. He was not even given the courtesy of a response.
Now Roux and acting SA Rugby president Mark Alexander must commit to a rugby reason why White has no future with the Boks, or show professional integrity and professionalism and bring back a World Cup winner with the rugby brain to help make the Boks potential World Cup winners again.
Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images