A hungry Oz team with canny coach Jack White at the helm promise interesting times

2012-04-13 00:00

AN interesting time awaits us in Super Rugby. On Sunday afternoon the Brumbies will arrive in South Africa with a very familiar face among them, among some very unfamiliar faces as well.

Leading the team into O.R. Tambo will be none other than Jake White and it will be interesting to see how the former Springbok coach goes about his business while “visiting” his old stomping grounds.

White has certainly proved his worth at the ACT franchise and they’ve surprised everyone with their good start to the season.

They played four of their first six matches at home though and were pretty lucky to get the result against the Cheetahs in Week 3, but take nothing away from White and his coaching staff, they trained a young and inexperienced squad to play some good rugby in a short time.

White of course is very adept at doing that. He has won the IRB Junior Champs at U21 level with young players and when he won his first Tri-Nations in 2004 (and was voted IRB Coach of the Year for the first time); it was with the relatively young squad he was assembling with an eye on the World Cup in 2007 — which he of course won (and was again named IRB Coach of the Year).

Subsequent to 2007, we’ve hardly seen White on the training grounds of South African rugby fields.

He had a very successful book tour, a business venture called Winning Ways that cost the Lions a lot of money, did some coaching at Varsity Cup level and helped the IRB train coaches in the Pacific and other areas of need. In between he was linked to the England coaching position a couple of times and finally accepted the position at the Brumbies.

This was good because one thing White can do is coach rugby.

Unfortunately, he is now coaching in Australia. We will have an interesting scenario in two weeks time when White returns to his roots in Johannesburg, where it all started for him many years ago. On April 27, the South African-coached Brumbies will play the Lions, coached by New Zealand’s John Mitchell. Strange times indeed!

A week before, of course, White will be in Pretoria to face the Bulls, a team he once helped as assistant coach and then fought against in many battles afterwards. It was no secret that he did not like Heyneke Meyer, who at the time was building a rugby dynasty at Loftus Versfeld.

He also never saw eye to eye with numerous Bulls players, including Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez, both of whom he saw as Meyer favourites. Returning to Loftus and beating the Bulls would be a very sweet feeling for White.

It would be interesting to see what media tactics White will follow when he’s back in the country.

Having travelled abroad with the Boks in White’s tenure quite often, I saw how he played the various rugby scribes all over the world.

He often got it right by telling everyone how great that particular country’s coach or players were.

Of course, he did get it wrong the one time in Ireland, telling the local hacks that only two of their team would make his squad. They had him for breakfast, lunch and dinner after that, especially when the Boks lost to Ireland. I remember another time, in Perth, as questions were pouring in about Bakkies Botha and his alleged thuggery.

White, his face all innocence, inquired about the outcome of an incident where Wallaby hooker Brendan Cannon was involved in a bar fight.

Needless to say, the Aussies backed down on Botha big time.

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