The turnaround of the Brumbies spits in the face of SA rugby administrators and is proof of Australia’s cultural assimilation, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.
Australia can be a tough place for South Africans.
When in Australia, you either do it right and win, or you fail and go home.
The fickle nature of that massive former penal colony demands a high price.
Somehow, the thick-skinned Jake White has found a way of getting round the Australian system and is starting to achieve a measure of success with the Brumbies.
After the repeated failures of Laurie Fisher and Andy Friend, they managed a 12th place finish, which prompted some introspection.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, a trusted lieutenant of White during his Springbok days, is not surprised by White’s quiet success in Australia.
“He knows what he wants and he plans very well. It’s not easy to go to any other country and get the players to believe in what you say and play for you as a coach, but he’s done that with the Brumbies,” Coetzee told City Press this week.
Reaching the high bar set by Rod MacQueen, Eddie Jones and David Nucifora will take some jumping.
And winning two Super Rugby titles with the smallest player base provincially in Australia took some doing, despite the fact that there were some quality players who also made it happen.
White has a group of workers in his team with none of the superstars that led to the player revolution of 2011.
With all his youth rugby expertise, Coetzee said White was the perfect choice to rejuvenate the Brumbies.
“He worked very well with juniors in South Africa and he understands the value of senior players. That’s why he’s got Clyde Rathbone and George Smith back to the Brumbies,” Coetzee said.
“He understands how to get the balance right and use a senior player’s experience.”
Even though Australian rugby is not at any low ebb, it seems that when Brumbies rugby is strong, it has a knock-on effect on Australian rugby.
This was nowhere more apparent than at the turn of the century, when the Canberra team provided the spine of the Wallabies in their golden era.
Between 2000 and 2004, the Brumbies contested all the Super Rugby finals, winning twice.
Those were good times for Australia, with the Tri-Nations title won in 2000 and 2001. Then there was the slaying of the British and Irish Lions in the latter year.
These heights have not been scaled before or since.
The comparison of the Bulls’ rugby success rubbing off on the Springboks is similar.
Knowing himself how the Super Rugby season wears teams down, Coetzee said White can tick a box he hasn’t been able to achieve as a coach.
“This is a different challenge for him. It’s about getting it right for 18 weeks on the trot, but he has done well with them so far,” said Coetzee.
“A lot has been said about the Australian conference being weak, but it’s not. It doesn’t mean if your Super Rugby is doing well, your national team will too, although the national team can draw confidence from such performances.”
How the Brumbies play simple rugby