Jake White would only be setting himself up
for failure and frustration if he continued
with the Boks in 2008.
A day before the Springboks beat Argentina
in the World Cup semi-finals, Jake White,
Cape Argus sports Editor Gary Lemke and I
were walking back to the team hotel after a
coffee at the Bercy Village.
“Watch out,” said Jake, pulling me out of
the road as a car whizzed past. Then he
turned to Gary and said: “A year ago I would
have pushed him into the road.”
We all laughed but the truth is given an
opportunity 12 months ago Jake probably
would have pushed me into the road because I
was among those who had written he should be
given the bullet as Bok coach. I wrote he
had nothing more to offer the Springboks and
we needed something else.
The Boks had lost seven of their last eight
Test matches and White, in my opinion, had
only been consistent in his inconsistency.
That was 12 months ago.
Did I get it wrong? I could argue that I
didn’t but the fact of the matter is the
Boks are in the World Cup final, so whatever
spin I’d want to put on it, I didn’t get it
I could also argue, as some have, that the
Boks would not be in the World Cup final had
it not been for the input of former
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones. Then again the
counter is that Jones is only there because
Whatever your view, whether you’ve applauded
Jake White in the last four years, condemned
him, screamed at him or felt for him, you
can’t ignore the immense courage it has
taken to survive as Bok coach.
No Bok coach in the history of the game had
made it to four consecutive years or 40
Tests. White on Saturday will be in charge
for a 52nd successive Test.
White is in Paris this week because he never
wanted to be anywhere else in the final week
of the World Cup. Springbok rugby is his
passion and South African rugby is his love.
He has made his mistakes, suffered because
of them, sacrificed the normality of being
at home when his kids eat dinner and fought
incredible forces within the South African
game. But he has also triumphed on so many
At the same time he has been left perplexed
by a South African media that voted him
media personality in one year and outcast
No-one ever promised White it would be easy
to coach the Springboks, but no-one ever
told him it would be this hard.
Yet he still wants the job, despite the
media intrusion on his life and the abuse
that comes with losing 49-0, as the Boks did
to Australia a year ago.
What makes a man want to put himself and
those around him through that kind of
turmoil? What makes a man want to save the
guy who a year ago tortured him in print?
When the wise heads of South African rugby
advertised White’s job a week ago, they
asked for someone who could handle
abnormality, intrusion and ridicule.
They did this at the time when an
extraordinary character was busy negotiating
the kind of social and political obstacles
no other coach in world rugby can
They did this without looking at what they
already had - a guy who has absorbed the
pressure, stumbled because of it, but is
There is no prouder South African in Paris
this week than Jake White. But if he
continues in South African rugby there will
be no bigger fool.
When he hurried me across the road I did
tell him that he needed to walk away once
he’d won the World Cup.
South African rugby doesn’t deserve him. I
couldn’t think of a bigger thank you to give
MARK KEOHANE |
keo.co.za | Wednesday, 17 October 2007 |
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