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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On the playing fields of Scotland

I'm in Bloemfontein today so just in case you're
wondering I phoned all these details through.

Before I start I would just like to say that I'm here
for Os du Randt's benefit dinner and consider it
an honour and a privilege to have been invited.

How many players in world rugby can claim to
have been part of two different World Cup
winning teams? In the case of Os being a
Springbok as well, makes this extra special.

I'm sure that everyone connected with the game
and South Africa wishes Os all the very best for
the future.

SARLA in Scotland

We've just returned from a South African Rugby
Legends Association
tour to Scotland. Sarla
does an enormous amount of work for SA grass roots
and it always fascinates me to read articles
asking me to get involved in assisting at this level.

I am and always will be involved at grass roots level
only the depth varies from time to time.

More importantly I played in the match between
the SA Legends against the Scottish Legends.
My first appearance for our lot.

We managed to beat them by 40 points to
twenty something but surprisingly I wasn't
awarded the man of the match.

If I find a bone in my body that is not still
hurting I'll let you know. Amazing how you
forget how difficult simple things like
breathing can become when you've been out
for a while.

We played the game at St Andrews University
and it was great to team up with Japie Mulder,
Breyton Paulse and the rest.

Joost was captain, Ian MacIntosh coach and I
was the playing-coach. Oh and before I forget
I was playing flank.

TRI-NATIONS

The All Blacks were vindicated for sticking with
coach Graham Henry.

Having lost the World Cup there was intense
pressure to bring in a new coach.

Despite losing between 8-9 of their star
players and a poor start with losses against
both South Africa and Australia, Henry's
wealth of experience saw this young
side through.

In terms of continuity and settling the
new players into the system experience
is vital as it proved.

In the end they were worthy winners
and we must learn from them.

Experience is crucial at this level.

CURRIE CUP

One of the most exciting years that I can
remember with all 5 top teams still in
with a chance of the semi-finals.

All of them are benefiting from the
return of their Springboks and it's going
to take a brave man to bet against any of
them.

It is a testimony to the depth of talent
we have in South African rugby today.

FINALLY

If I can get off this bed I'm off to what
should be a great benefit dinner.

Keep supporting the game.

Jake White speaking to Mail & Guardian's Mike Trapido

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Much improved but lessons to be learned

Saturday's emphatic win over Australia proved once
again what a highly talented group of players the current
Springbok squad possesses. Regardless of whether or not
people believe that our guys had nothing to play for, a 50
point-plus tally allied to a record margin over the
Wallabies is an outstanding achievement.

If the Australian press are anything to go by then this
was not a match that they were happy to concede, with
many questions being asked about why they can't put
two big games together. First off they beat the All Blacks
in Australia only to go down the following week and
then Saturday's reversal following their triumph in Durban.

The next step is to build on that victory which means
that right now we have to look back and see why the
team did not perform as it can on a regular basis.
We need to sort out the problems that are holding
us back and result in us underachieving. One result
will not provide the answer to those questions.

We need to establish the things that are holding
us back and why they are occasioning defeats on
one Saturday and victory on the next. We have to
be consistent and that comes from identifying
where these problems are. There is a world of
difference between losing and being beaten.

As you are now aware I am promoting the idea
of a "Director of Rugby" in order to facilitate an
easier succession and assist the coaching staff.
This is not meant to be in competition or as boss
of the current coaching staff but rather as a sounding
board to the coaches. That is why I was at pains to
point out that this would add value without usurping
the role, functions or decision-making powers of
the coaching staff

Just as I needed Eddie Jones' experience to bring
home the 2007 World Cup so too can Peter de Villiers
and the coaches benefit from mine.

The common goal is after all to make the Springboks
the number one team in World rugby.

Jake White speaking to Mail & Guardian's Mike Trapido

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Director of Rugby needed for Springboks

Whenever any of our national sport's teams suffer a setback,
there is a lot of speculation in the media about how this will
affect the coaches or the board. Rugby, as one of our three
majors, is no different.

During the week I was contacted by the media who asked
me what my thinking was on the current situation and
whether I thought I could be of assistance to the Springboks.

Instead of all the speculation I believe it best to set out
my thinking here.

Firstly I believe that a new post should be created within
the current set-up which I have styled the "Director of Rugby".
This should be a part time position as it has to avoid the
director interfering with the coaching set-up. It would allow
the coaches to approach the Director and use him as a sounding
board on all aspects of the job.

The major benefit being that he would be a rugby,
rather than administrative, person. When we won
the World Cup I knew what my limitations were and
went and asked Eddie Jones to assist me. His
experience played a vital role in our success.

Secondly the post should be used for the benefit
of not only the Springboks but South African Rugby
as a whole. As it is I am involved with grass roots
at the moment.

Thirdly when times get really tough our guys
know me, are aware that I have won both junior
and senior world cups and most importantly of all,
understand the exact nature of the pressure they
are under.

Fourthly due to my other commitments, the
coaching staff know that I am not there to take over
their jobs but rather to assist them, in anyway
I can to become a successful Springbok coaching unit.

I think we all know by now that my blood is green
and gold and that I would move mountains to keep
the Springboks where they belong - at the top of
World Rugby.

Jake White speaking to Mike Trapido of the Mail & Guardian

Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't panic and don't force it

Like every other Springbok rugby fan I was bitterly disappointed
with our 15-27 loss to Australia in Durban on Saturday.
Back-to-back defeats on home soil, particularly against these
opponents, was always going to be hard to stomach.

With the match at King's Park coming straight after the defeat
against the All Blacks at Newlands the previous weekend, many
of us, myself included, expected to see our guys bounce straight
back. Unfortunately this was not to be.

As I have always maintained, the Australians have a great
defence which serves them well in tough matches such as these.
Of course that does not in any way excuse the fact that we went
three halves, without scoring a single point, before Butch James
broke the drought.

That statistic alone has to tell us that things are not going
according to plan and we need to adapt ourselves accordingly.
While much has been made about the style of play the new
coaching staff are using I don't believe that this is the
be-all-and-end-all of the equation. They are acutely aware of
the fact that they have to employ a style which is best suited
to our players.

However at times like these, we need to play to our strengths
which means using our forwards to dominate and create sufficient
good field position and possession to improve our chances of
scoring.

Rugby is a simple game and ever since cavemen first started
tossing eggs around two things have remained constant - big
dominant forwards and field position. We need to be playing
in our opponents half far more often than we are doing at
the moment.

This is a very special group of players with far too much
talent not to succeed. We must however find a way to start
bringing out the best in them sooner rather than later.
In turn the players themselves must stick together as a
group and answer the tough questions that are being asked
of them right now.

Most importantly people must stop panicking and making
matters worse. This is a time for calm heads in terms
of preparation, team-selection and game plan. Fortunately
we have the opportunity to turn things around on Saturday.

If our guys give us 80 minutes of their best the chances
are we'll be back on the winning trail.

That will be a good start.

Jake White speaking to Mike Trapido of the Mail & Guardian

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

All Black's day and on to Australia

I was disappointed that the Springboks didn't beat New Zealand in their Tri-Nations encounter at Newlands last Saturday. Everything was set up for the win with Dan Carter missing 4 kickable penalties to leave us only trailing 0-5 at the break.

That is not a bad position to be in with twenty minutes to go, the pressure on the All Blacks and only 5 points in it. Unfortunately for us there were two turning points. Firstly Bryan Habana's foot finding the touchline and then Percy Montgomery missing two vital kicks during his 100th Test match which he would normally have slotted on any other day. Either of the two would have had us ahead or level at worst.

It was not to be.

In terms of our defence I believe that Schalk Burger proved how valuable he is to the Springboks in covering the inside. As soon as he was replaced Dan Carter got through and scored right under the poles.

Despite everything that Test was within our grasp and in the last quarter things could have turned out so differently.

That is all in the past and the guys must now focus on the Test against Australia on Saturday.

The Springboks need to get back to their strengths - their physicality and their powerful set of forwards. The danger in terms of the Wallabies will come from their backline and it is vital to the cause that we keep clean possession to them down to a minimum.

Once again Schalk will be essential to ensuring that we defend well on the inside. The Aussie backs are highly innovative while the team as a whole plays the multiple-phase game exceedingly well. The breakdowns will be vital and Schalk will help to slow the game down.

If the Springboks want to score tries this weekend then they are going to have to play the game in the Wallabies half of the field as much as possible. Field position could well be a major factor in this one.

In terms of defence the Wallabies are exceptional, owing much to the fact that they don't commit numbers to the breakdowns. This makes it harder to break their defence down.

In terms of lineouts we are going to have to improve on last Saturday's performance where we let ourselves down a bit.

Here's hoping we can bounce back this week.

Jake White speaking to Mike Trapido of the Mail & Guardian

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On to Cape Town and the All Blacks

The Springboks will return to the Tri-Nations at Newlands on
Saturday. As I said last week if the Boks could keep up a
high tempo throughout the match, they would overcome Argentina.
Nine unanswered tries is emphatic in anyone's book.

This week they entertain the All Blacks in what I believe
is going to be a very close encounter. Having said that I
still take the Springboks to edge it.

The coaching staff have selected a very strong team and while
there are always going to be those who believe that certain
players should be in ahead of others, this is a quality side.
In the return of Fourie Du Preez I believe you will see the
best of Butch James. Du Preez relieves a lot of the kicking
pressure off James and together they form an outstanding
partnership.

A major advantage for the Springboks is going to be their
height in the lineouts with the All Black locks and hooker
coming in for a lot of pressure.

The return of Percy Montgomery at fullback for his record
breaking 100th cap will not only strengthen the kicking game
but add a quality point's scorer to the side.

All in all like any Springboks, All Blacks match-up, this
is one not to be missed.

Jake White speaking to the Mail & Guardian's Mike Trapido

Friday, August 8, 2008

Argentina and a bit about Butch

With tomorrow's Test against Argentina upon us I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the match with you.

Before I start however, I would like to deal with an item in the comment's section referring to Butch James. In my opinion Butch is undoubtedly the finest defensive flyhalf in the world. With the advent of the new laws allowing the number 8 to break and the backs to stand 5 metres back at scrums, he closes off a channel which forces the opposition to go wide and makes the slide defence much easier to apply.

He is also the ideal partner for Fourie Du Preez particularly when you're playing a kicking game.

The Mandela Tribute Test at the Coca Cola Park in Johannesburg is going to be interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly we have never lost to the Pumas in the previous 12 Tests and it is vital that we keep this record going for as long as we can. Secondly regardless of which players the Pumas have sent, you will always be on the end of a tough uncompromising encounter with these guys. Such is the passion of the Argentinians that they never lie down and accept defeat.

The key battle is going to be fought among the fowards and in particular the front row. In the brothers Mario and Pedro Ledesma they have immense strength and it will be fascinating to see how our guys cope.

In terms of tactics we can expect the Pumas to play a stop-start game which will slow everything down. It is vital that the Springboks maintain a high tempo throughout the game which should provide the recipe for success.

We must also not lose sight of the fact that this game also provides an ideal opportunity, after the three week break, to get our game together ahead of next week's Tri-Nations encounter with the All Blacks.

Let's hope we can give Madiba a fitting birthday present from the Springboks.

Jake White speaking to Mike Trapido of the Mail & Guardian