White’s re­turn not such a good idea

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa

AT a time when rep­utable coaches have been ex­chang­ing know­ing looks and dis­tanc­ing them­selves from be­ing in­volved with the Spring­boks, Jake White has stead­fastly pro­nounced his in­ter­est to any­one within earshot.

The money may not be the same (it cer­tainly wouldn’t be what Mont­pel­lier are pay­ing him) and the re­sources are not quite what they used to be, but the for­mer Bok coach is adamant that he wants back in with the same SA Rugby peo­ple who did not re­new his con­tract, de­spite his World Cup win in 2007.

It is not like the post is va­cant at the mo­ment, but if re­cent de­vel­op­ments are any­thing to go by, Al­lis­ter Coetzee’s hold on the po­si­tion could be a ten­u­ous one if France are not dis­patched con­vinc­ingly in June.

Given last year’s four wins out of 12 games, it is safe to say that, even with the ad­di­tion of would-be saviours Bren­dan Venter and Franco Smith, that kind of re­sult can­not be guar­an­teed.

This is where White comes in. His de­par­ture from Mont­pel­lier will hap­pen in June, and he would kill for a place at rugby’s top table again – and the Bok job is just the kind of work he likes to take on.

Look­ing at his track record, it is hard to dis­agree that he has the req­ui­site skills for a res­cue act. He has done an am­bu­lance job ev­ery­where he has been: think Boks in 2004, the Brumbies, the Sharks and now Mont­pel­lier.

White’s strengths in those sit­u­a­tions are his abil­ity to spark con­fi­dence within the play­ers, come up with a co­her­ent plan to re­build a team, and the abil­ity to put the right team to­gether sim­ply be­cause he is a great se­lec­tor.

But like all res­cue acts, sub­stance tri­umphed style to the point where the rugby ap­peared joy­less – not only for the pub­lic but the for play­ers as well – which is re­port­edly why Mont­pel­lier will be re­plac­ing White with Scotland coach Vern Cot­ter.

This has to be the first rea­son it would not be such a great idea for White to re­turn to the Bok fold. As mud­dled as SA Rugby’s think­ing can ap­pear, it is right in want­ing its main brand to play the kind of rugby that will bring not only wins, but sup­port­ers and spon­sors back.

The sec­ond rea­son is White’s track record for “mak­ing friends and in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple”. It takes a lot to have no­body in­ter­ested in re­new­ing your con­tract af­ter win­ning a World Cup.

And the prob­lem is that this is some­thing that has per­sisted over the years – his de­par­tures from the Brumbies and the Sharks were hardly am­i­ca­ble. White seems to thrive in en­vi­ron­ments where there is con­stantly more than just a lit­tle con­flict. Un­for­tu­nately, with South Africa ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a player and coach drain, what the coun­try needs is a col­lab­o­ra­tive en­vi­ron­ment, as op­posed to a frac­tious one.

Even the one po­si­tion he could be per­fect for – di­rec­tor of rugby, where his in­ter­na­tional con­tacts and abil­ity to strate­gise a turn­around would be key – would be dif­fi­cult for him as his im­pos­ing per­son­al­ity would prob­a­bly lead to his in­ter­fer­ing with the day-to-day run­ning of the Bok team.

What SA Rugby would miss in not rop­ing White in, how­ever, is his soft­ened stance to trans­for­ma­tion. When he re­turned to coach the Sharks in 2013, the likes of S’bura Sit­hole and Tera Mtembu were given real op­por­tu­ni­ties to flour­ish.

Given that the SA Su­per Rugby teams all res­o­lutely stuck to their “right” to pick 30% black match-day squads last week­end, this would be a big miss.

One can see where White is com­ing from in want­ing to coach the Boks again – their cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is noth­ing short of the af­ter­math of Kamp Staal­draad in 2004. But there comes a time in life when go­ing back to lost loves is not the an­swer.

Be­sides, SA Rugby can only af­ford so many sideshows.

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