Jake White is not suicidal after round 10 of the Vodacom Super 14. And he does not share Graham Henry’s sentiments that the standard of the tournament has suffered because of the inclusion of two franchises.
Speaking to Keo.co.za, White said it was a South African weakness to always sell our teams short and to focus entirely on the negative. He said there was plenty to encourage him in the first 10 rounds, especially the performance of the Sharks and the Cheetahs.
“The Sharks have won four from their nine matches and with a bit of luck they could have beaten the Crusaders and Brumbies away from home. They’ve played good rugby and they have had some very good results. At the start of the season there were predictions they would not win a game. Their form has to be a positive. The Cheetahs are the new boys to the competition, but they scored a fantastic win against the Hurricanes and have also won four matches. They have struggled in the last two matches on tour, but for a first up effort they’ve done very well and they’ll do even better once they get home.
“No one is denying the Cats and Stormers have been poor, but the Bulls have been competitive and with a bit of luck the four wins could have been eight wins. They lost to the Brumbies in the last minute, lost to the Canes in the last minute and were a conversion kick from beating the Reds in Brisbane. They also got a draw in Hamilton. You’ve got to keep some perspective. The line between success and failure in this tournament is a point, a missed kick or a charge down. There are five teams in the pack chasing the Brumbies and two of those teams are South African.
“There weren’t many who were predicting two SA teams would be in the hunt with four rounds to play. It isn’t all bad news.”
White said the Cheetahs had shown themselves worthy of a place in the competition and that the Force were not as bad as their league position suggests.
“Again you go and analyse the Force’sr performances and there has been some very good matches. Their defeat on Saturday was their worst this season and I’ve seen plenty of the established sides take 50 points in this competition. Go and see what the Crusaders did in 1996. Who back then would have backed them to win five titles, play in seven finals and have an 80 percent win record?
“I see Graham being quoted about the decline in standard, but it is not the way I see it. The Crusaders, Canes, Waratahs and Brumbies have played as well as they’ve ever played in Super 12, the Bulls have been as effective as last year but the rub of the green has not favoured them and the Sharks have started to produce quality games. I think the rugby has been good, but there has to be an appreciation for the improvement in defences and the improvement of teams all-round.”
When asked how he would rate his Boks’ performances, White said team circumstance dictated form and that some had delivered more consistency than others.
“I go back to what I said this time last year when everyone was questioning whether I was going to pick half my Bok squad. I know what I have got and I know they are the best players in the country. The same players who looked out of form in last year’s Super 12, combined to beat the All Blacks in Cape Town a few months later. I know where the backbone of my Bok team is and nothing has changed in my thinking. I also know that Schalk Burger would be more imposing if he operated behind the Bulls tight five or that Jean de Villiers may be more effective outside of Tony Brown and with his team playing good attacking rugby. These are all things you factor in.
“The thing I am the most depressed about is the injury situation. I have lost Gurthro Steenkamp and Ashwin Willemse for the season. They would be definites in my squad and it is a huge blow. Ashwin’s was particulary painful when you consider how hard he has worked to get back. He looked superb against the Sharks and it was cruel that his season was ended with another knee injury,” said White, who this season will pick a Bok squad of 45 to prepare for the first three test matches.