Jake White says he has not picked Luke Watson ahead of Solly Tyibilika for Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks because of transformation requirements.
White was responding to the clamour of rival coaches, outraged fans and the media for Watson to be included in the Vodacom Tri-Nations touring party after Saturday’s 49-0 humiliation by Australia.
“For him to get here now, this late, after never being a part of the squad would not serve our immediate needs,” White told Cape Argus rugby writer Dale Granger.
However, the coach admitted there were other factors to consider, most notably transformation.
“We also need to be honest about sensitivities of the make-up of the team. We have got a guy like Solly and we need to show that transformation is happening in our country. What message would I be sending to bring Solly on tour and then call for another flanker [from back home] to start in a Test match?”
White’s transformation complaint doesn’t carry much weight, considering the form of two black flankers – Tim Dlulane and Kabamba Floors – in the Super 14 and Currie Cup. Both have outshone Tyibilika this season.
Tyibilika was dropped from the Sharks side midway through the Super 14 and couldn’t even crack the starting XV of the Wildebeest at the tailend of the Vodacom Cup. Now he is expected to play the fetcher role against Richie McCaw, the best in the business.
Meanwhile Watson, the best South African fetcher this season on form, continues to lead Western Province’s revival in the Absa Currie Cup.
The Argus also reports that the Boks arrived in New Zealand at midnight to be greeted by a firestorm of media scorn.
Banner headlines in the daily Dominion Post on Monday morning welcomed the South Africans to Wellington by asking: “How low can they go?”
White was bombarded with questions about the “attitude and culture” of Bok players seen “smiling and looking around” at the final whistle of arguably the worst performance in Springbok history.
“I did not notice that, probably because I was coming down to the field,” he said. “But if that is the case, we will address it and the players will have to explain it to their team-mates. We have a lot of young boys in the team who came straight from school into professional rugby. It flies in the face of the value systems we have been trying to instil and how important the Springbok jersey is.”