If Jake White is offered the England job, he would be a fool to turn it down.
Let’s assess the situation. White inherited a Springbok squad at it lowest in the history of the game. He walked into a Springbok set-up with the brand and image around that brand at an all-time low point following the scandals of 2003, including the infamous Kamp Staaldraad.
Through it all he turned the Springboks into a winning combination that earned respect through its efforts on the rugby field. Twice in four occasions he beat the All Blacks and twice he lost in the last few minutes in New Zealand.
He did this despite minimal co-operations from the provinces, absolutely no co-operation from the provincial and regional coaches and with limited co-operation when it came to selecting black players for provincial and Super 14 duty. He did this despite warnings from his medical team that many of his players would break down in 2006 if they continued to operate at maximum in the Super 14. He did this, despite having to justify his selections and game plan strategy to a committee, whose rugby members had achieved no success as national coaches. He did this with constant bickering from ill-informed government sources. He did this with an enforced quota system in place. You could write a book of the obstacles he first had to beat in his own country before focusing on the opposition.
White does not have a technical rugby department at SARU. An organisation that has seven Communications and Marketing employees has one computer analyst to assist White and forwards coach Gert Smal. That is the total of the technical department.
Hell, he’d be a fool to stick around when he has to justify a game plan to a Board of Directors, who in turn break the news to him that they have no authority, even to make a recommendation to the President’s Council that he should stay. This, bear in mind, is the same Board who made a recommendation that the Spears should be canned as a concept. They made this recommendation to a President’s Council who had on eight occasions voted for the Spears inclusion. When it came to the Spears debacle, the Board had authority. When it comes to White, they have none?
Why was he even asked to make a presentation to a bunch who have no decision-making authority. Instead, 14 provincial presidents will decide White’s future when most of them can’t even guarantee you that their unions will financially survive the year. As it stands, nine of those 14 provincial unions would have been closed down if they were operating in the real business world. And of the five so-called big ones, only three are financially strong. That’s the state of the game in this country and the blokes who will decide on White’s continuation in SA Rugby include the kind who give up their official duty of representing South Africa at a test at Twickenham in return for a laptop! Come on, how does White take the views of these guys seriously.
They have no interest in the national coach or the well-being of the national team. Any deal made must benefit the respective provincial union.
It is noble of SARU president Regan Hoskins to say the union won’t stand in White’s way. It is a comment also devoid of urgency. In any business you fight for an asset and White is an asset to this country. You only have to assess what he has done in the last two and a half years.
But allowing him to go would simply be in keeping with an organisation that has perfected the art of pointing the shotgun at both feet and then pulling the trigger to see if it still hurts.
Everyone raves about New Zealand and their vision in appointing Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith as a kind of holy trinity to guide the Kiwis. Guess what, South Africa had that in place in 1997. Nick Mallett, Alan Solomons, Heyneke Meyer, Jake White and Pieter de Villiers were all on the management in 1997. Yes, the management that guided the Boks to a 52-10 win in Paris, a record 29-11 against England at Twickenham and a record 68-10 against Scotland in Edinburgh.
This team went 16 matches unbeaten and add to the one win under Carel du Plessis, the Boks equalled the world record for successive test wins.
Within 18 months the provincial presidents had it in for Mallett and whatever he had built was broken down. They used the excuse that he criticised the price of test match tickets and a fortnight after beating the All Blacks 46-40 at Ellis Park, he was gone.
Sadly, most supporters shrugged and moved on. It is why we will never be number one, but always be chasing number one.
White, like Mallett, has become too successful and hence too powerful for the provincial presidents. It is why there is little resistance to him going.
Jake, take the English offer and in an ideal world you will come back to South Africa as head coach of the Lions in 2009 and score a famous series win against the Boks.
And when you do, please toast those 14 provincial presidents who run the game in South Africa.