Jake White, into his third year as the national coach, has stunningly revealed he does not know who his back-ups are if Percy Montgomery and John Smit don’t play.
White, interviewed by Pretoria News reporter Brendan Nel, is quoted as saying: “To be honest, I probably don’t have a back-up plan if something happens to John or Percy at the moment.
“But we have three weeks of rugby left and I’m hoping they get through that all right. They both need some rest and they will get that after these three weeks. Then we can plan for the end-of-year tour. We’ve had a lot of injuries recently and it has allowed us to bring in some new guys and try out some new combinations.
“The nice thing about that is that it has allowed us to get a little closer to that squad of 30 for next year’s World Cup.”
White’s comments are confirmation that he will continue to sap the last bit of energy out of both Smit, who has played in 32 successive tests, and Montgomery, who has missed just two in the last 32.
Both players have performed poorly in the last three tests, with fatigue being the obvious factor.
White has often condemned the provincial and regional coaches for overplaying the Springboks, but the national coach is the biggest culprit when it comes to his two senior players Montgomery and Smit.
White took JP Pietersen on tour to Australia and New Zealand, but in three matches the SA under 21 and Sharks fullback never got any game time. Every hooker who has warmed the bench to Smit has also been nothing more than a tackle bag carrier in the last three years.
White’s comments are very disturbing because it again shows the total lack of planning when it comes to the Springboks. They are a side that plays for survival each Saturday and the naivety with regards to Montgomery and Smit is barely believable.
Smit is due to break down because his track record shows that his body can’t continue to meet the demands of ongoing test rugby. In 2001 Smit played 30-plus matches in the season and he hardly played the next year because of injury.
Montgomery, his international career in its final stage, has looked like an imposter to the fired up player who arrived from Newport in 2004, determined to show the South African public his worth as an international fullback.
Montgomery’s form up until the end of year tour last year was better than at any stage of his career. But he has been ordinary since, with his goalkicking at its erratic worst.
White, who has often called for patience from the public, has relied on a starting XV in his thinking and very little else. When Schalk Burger got injured White’s world fell apart. There was never a secondary plan for Burger.
There has never been one for Jean de Villiers. There certainly is not one for Victor Matfield, despite the belief Albert van den Berg is Matfield’s understudy.
And now it is confirmed that there is no plan for Montgomery and Smit.
What is equally disturbing is White’s comment that he has managed to build towards the World Cup because of injuries to his first XV. Did it need players to get injured to action the introduction of the second tier squad player?
Surely there should have been a plan around these players? Surely there had to be some kind of game time schedule for every one of his squad of 30?
The Bok coach asks the public to believe in him, then he makes that kind of statement. How do you have faith in a coach, who after 32 tests admits he doesn’t know what he would do if Montgomery got injured?
You simply don’t, which makes the next 18 months to the World Cup an even scarier prospect.