Springbok coach Jake White believes the appointment of a national director of rugby will do nothing to improve the situation in South Africa.
While most, including me, are screaming that such an appointment be made, White said he would prefer to operate free of any director as he felt it would only complicate and not simplify any national coaching position.
“People are looking for answers in the wrong place. The answer to our problems is not the appointment of a national director of rugby. The answer is consistency in coaching appointments at a national and regional level and a succession plan for each person, agreed to by the board of the SA Rugby Union,” White told Keo.co.za, adding that he had reservations about a national director of rugby appointment because of all the politics involved in creating such a position.
“The less interference to the Bok side the better,” said White. “And I think a national director of rugby would want the Springboks to fall under his job responsibility. I don’t think this is right. We currently have a general manager of national teams in former Stormers and Welsh international Andy Marinos. He does a fantastic job, but his focus is very much on the administration around the team. He has nothing to do with the rugby side of it and that is the way I, as a national coach, would prefer it. I know others disagree.”
White said that it was outrageous to be calling for the heads of Kobus van der Merwe and Frans Ludeke, to name but two of the country’s five regional coaches.
“Take Frans as an example. He has lost four of his first five matches, but the Cats have lost something like 44 of their last 49 matches in the competition. In this time they used Frans, Tim Lane and a coaching trio of Chester Williams, Rassie Erasmus and Brendan Venter. Getting rid of the coach isn’t the answer.
“Where’s Chester? So much went into his development in 2004 and 2005 and now he hasn’t got a team to coach. Where’s Brendan? He was very good at London Irish but he’s not coaching? What would have happened to Rassie if the Cheetahs were not a new entity in the Super 14? Would he also have been sacked.
“In Cape Town it is the same. What good would it do to be sacking Kobus (van der Merwe) and Gary (Gold) after one season? It is short-term knee-jerk reaction. As I said in an earlier interview, if there was a rugby blueprint that embraced the national coach and the five regional coaches and put in place a three-to-five year plan and succession plan, we wouldn’t have coaches coaching from one week to the next wondering if this week is their last. It is not right.”
White also said it was crucial that the top 140 players were identified between himself and the five regional coaches.
“We don’t have a draft system. We don’t have proper identification. There are some very good players running around in the Vodacom Cup that could be adding value to our Super 14 squads. But no one is talking. No one is acting on what is a crisis situation for us. The first five weeks of the competition have not been good to us. All the coaches and myself need to be discussing how it can be improved, not on a casual basis, but in a constructive way to find solutions.”
White said it distressed him that his All Blacks counterpart Graham Henry (and his fellow national coaches) were spending a day a week with the five New Zealand franchises. At this Henry interacts with the regional coach and those players in the national frame. It also gives him a chance to see first hand players outside of the national framework.
“We simply don’t have that kind of working relationship in our rugby,” said White. “I’ve popped in at the odd union for a casual visit. Earlier in the year I indicated that I would like to play a more active role during the competition, in terms of interacting with the coaches and adding value to their campaigns. Nothing materialised.”
White, after five weeks of Super 14 woe, is frustrated. He believes he could be making a difference. Instead he is far removed from the South African Super 14 scene.
“Now is the time to fix it,” he says. “We can’t keep on plodding along like this.”