National nightmare

Bok coach Jake White continues to have no say in the Vodacom Super 14 as the national cause has become secondary to the relegation race.

White confirmed to Keo.co.za that he spoke on a casual basis with the Super 14 coaches, but nothing was done in an official capacity.

He had no say over who they played, who they rested and any other form of decision-making. He admitted there was no such thing as national unity in the planning around the Super 14. White was not even consulted as to whom he, as the Bok coach, believed were the best 140 players in the country.

“I have a good relationship with the coaches, but each is involved in his own battle, to either win the tournament or not finish last and therefore avoid relegation.”

In New Zealand, as an example, the All Blacks coaching staff plays a huge role in the pre-season when it comes to determining which players go into the draft and which players need to be played in certain positions. There is far greater co-operation.

South Africa, so insular in its approach, simply refuse to follow this blueprint.

Three years ago a system was put in place, in an attempt to get greater national buy-in between the respective coaches and the national coach. It lasted one year.

This system was very simple in its principle. All South African coaches would work together to try and beat the overseas opposition. As an example: The Cheetahs play the Hurricanes and the Stormers play the Highlanders and the next week the Highlanders play the Bulls and the Hurricanes play the Stormers. The system was such that the SA coach would then pass on all relevant information to the SA coach whose team was facing the opposition next. This would be done on a formal basis and all relevant information on the opposition would go into a national data base, so as to start building data on each New Zealand and Aussie team.

The belief was that each South African team had to give the other South African team every possible bit of assistance to beat the blokes from Down Under.

Player feedback was also essential. Each coach would do a report on his players, so as to give the national coach an indication of how the season was unfolding. Now there is nothing.

The national coach operates off his own bat and so does each player.

It does not bode well for the long term.

White on Monday morning was reluctant to comment on the Super 14 performances, for fear of it being misinterpreted. But he did express surprise that Percy Montgomery did not take the goalkicking in the Sharks match.

Monty’s kicking gets better the more he kicks. This was proved when he did all the kicking for Newport and then came back into the Bok set-up. Last year he allowed Cedric Sweeney to do the kicking and in his first few matches back for the Boks he was not as consistent.

This season Montgomery’s kicking has been good, with the exception of his two early misses against the Waratahs. Now Brown has slotted in and while he did exceptionally well on Saturday, having an All Black kick well for the Sharks does very little for the national cause.

If Montgomery was excelling in the kicking department, it would be a win-win situation.

“The issue is relegation. Each coach is fighting to survive, so each coach will make a choice that he feels could determine the outcome of the match. The Sharks obviously felt Brown was in better goalkicking form and he was outstanding against the Brumbies.

“But from a national perspective we do gain nothing when a foreign player is taking on the responsibility you would associate with one of your own international stalwarts,” said White.

It is the lack of flow in information between our coaches and national coach that is unacceptable in a professional era.

White must feel like he coaches the British and Irish Lions — a team made up from four countries.

Provincialism and regionalism is so strong in South Africa that each region in the Super 14 sees itself as one entity and not an integral part of the national entity. It is why our rugby will remain in trouble.

We rely on one-off wins to give us hope. If we had the right structures in place and the right people were talking to each other on a weekly basis, it would be more hit than miss when it came to SA results in the Super 14.