Let’s win it for Jake!

2007-11-23 00:00

The Springboks will not be standing on any ceremony today to commemorate Jake White’s last Test match as their coach — they will just go out to give him the present they know he has always craved the most, which is victory.

The Boks play Wales in the final Test match of the year at the Millennium Stadium here this afternoon and skipper John Smit, who has travelled the whole road with White in the last four years as South Africa turned from laughing stock in world rugby following the last World Cup into the current champions, knows exactly what White would want most.

“We had quite a nice jersey presentation, with Jake presenting the jerseys in this, his last Test,” said Smit.

“He told us some great stories as he reminisced over the past four years, and also told us a humorous story about how ironic it is that he is giving Heinke van der Merwe, who is on the reserve bench for this match, his first Springbok jersey. Apparently Jake knew Heinke’s dad quite well and Heinke used to scream and pester them when he was a two-year-old and they were trying to concentrate on watching rugby.

“But we don’t want to do too much for this game that is out of the ordinary. What we have tried to make this week is not so much a sad ending but just the ending to a happy chapter. How we finish with Jake will hopefully be reminiscent of how we started with him four years ago.”

The Boks started the White era with a resounding win over Ireland in Bloemfontein in May 2004. Smit knows Wales are going to throw everything at his team today, but he is confident they will withstand the early onslaught.

“Being away from rugby for five weeks is obviously a problem and how ready we are may well depend on how much some of the guys have celebrated,” laughed Smit.

“But we have worked hard since coming together and I felt during training this week that we were lifting the intensity quite nicely, so we are confident.”

The talk is that the Welsh Rugby Union for once will deign to cover the Millennium Stadium, something that the Boks have asked them to do on just about every visit here since the new ground was completed in 1999. If they do, it is obvious why they are doing it — the home team’s strength lies in the backs, and for once they will not want weather to be a leveller.

“If they do close the roof it will be my debut under the roof. I have played several games here and the roof has never been closed in a Test match I have played here,” said Smit.

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