JJ Harmse

Public relations win for White

2007-12-06 10:06

JJ Harmse

We are in the last 30 days of Jake White's tenure as Springbok coach, but it seems as if it is going to be a long month for the SA Rugby administrators.

It is fair to say that they will be counting the days to see the back of the coach who hogged the limelight and reflecting dark shadows on them.

Fairly or unfairly, we all have a take on that, the administrators' timing in appointing White's replacement, as well as some rather embarrassing truths from the coach's recent book, has made them the bad apples in the eyes of the public.

The fact that the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup made White the most successful coach ever and the most popular in recent decades.

White claimed a moral victory over his bosses in the last couple of months and now is on the high road while visiting various centres on his book tour. Everything White says now will have a huge impact on those who are prepared to not only spend money on his book, but also meet the well-presented coach in person.

Public relations

There will only be one winner as SA Rugby has decided not to get involved in mud-slinging with White.

Every story certainly has two sides and White was no angel, but he's beating SA Rugby easily on the public relations side of things.

It would certainly be interesting to await further developments regarding White's claims that the Watson family tried to buy their son a place in the World Cup squad. They denied the original story, but such a claim is so serious by nature that legal steps are almost inevitable. Legal letters from the Watson's or not, White will have his hands full over the next couple of weeks.

There are certainly more than enough offers from clubs looking for a coach and as many as 10 of the top 12 teams in the world will be without someone in charge come January 1 next year and will be looking for someone that can take them to glory in four years. They include Australia, Canada, Scotland, England, the USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Samoa.

Versatile player

I saw White indicated during his recent road show that the future for the Springboks lies with Ruan Pienaar at 10 and Frans Steyn at 15.

I disagree.

Pienaar is a versatile player, but White's insistence that he must play at fullback during the recent tour was unfair to the player and to other fullbacks in the country.

Pienaar himself indicated in numerous interviews that he wants to play scrumhalf and nowhere else. He is clearly not happy at 15 and is making errors that are costing the Springboks. Wales and the Barbarians scored tries that came from his errors in a position where only White would play him.

For White to now want to put pressure on his successor on where to play Pienaar is silly and a dangerous thing to do.

Best position

The new coach does not need the previous one to tell him where to play a certain player when that coach (White) hardly played Pienaar in his best position himself. He had his chance with Pienaar, now he must leave the next person to do with the young star as he pleases.

Pienaar wants to play scrumhalf and if we have a better one in Fourie du Preez in that position already, so be it.

We certainly need to encourage more opensiders to play in the No 6 jersey, even if we have Schalk Burger in that position. If Pienaar is not good enough to make the Bok side in his best position, tough luck.

Same with Steyn.

I also like the idea of Steyn at fullback, but he has made such an impact at inside centre that one will find it hard not to pick him there in future Bok sides.


At last however, White admitted that Steyn might not be the right option at flyhalf at this stage of his career.

The young Sharks player needs to mature before he will be able to play at 10 and has time on his side. I cannot see why he should be rushed. We have other capable flyhalves in the country.

One can certainly learn from White's point of view. He has the World Cup as proof that some of his ideas proved to be the right ones. Unfortunately, he also made many wrong calls and I believe the way he treated Pienaar was one of them.

Whoever replaces White will need to have a chat with the old coach. He needs to be his own man and White must respect that. White certainly did it his way. I hope that the same will be extended to the new man in charge.

  • Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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