Mallett’s change of heart

A change in topic matter has persuaded Nick Mallett to meet with Regan Hoskins and Jake White on Thursday.

Mallett confirmed to Keo.co.za that he had spoken to Hoskins on Wednesday and to Ian McIntosh and both had assured him that the purpose of the meeting was not to give White advice or try and find a short-term solution for the embattled Bok coach.

Mallett had earlier declined an invitation to meet with the national coach, describing the invitation to former national coaches as a public relations exercise.

“The problem in South African rugby goes beyond the Bok coach or the struggles of the national team,” Mallett told Keo.co.za. “We have to get the structures right in South African rugby, first and foremost. Then we can shift the focus to specifics.”

Mallett believes the forum will provide him with an opportunity to present his views on the structural shortcomings in South African rugby, although it is doubtful it will have a lot of impact given that at the recent President’s Council meeting the push was again for a 14-team Currie Cup. Mallett’s view is that strength versus strength is the only saviour to the domestic game and that includes only six professional franchises.

He told Keo.co.za: “I was told that Thursday’s meeting is not about Jake but SA Rugby in general. Issues to be discussed include structures, competitions and contracting. When I chatted to Regan he said it was not about the Bok team but about how to improve the current rugby structure in general. On this basis I thought it would be churlish not to go when we are being asked to give our opinions on that. If it was about Jake and the Bok team it would be a pointless exercise.”

SA under 21 coach Peter de Villiers will also attend and there is talk that Harry Viljoen has accepted an invitation.

It is understood that Rudolf Straeuli and Andre Markgraaff have refused to meet with White, while Carel du Plessis indicated he had other business commitments.

McIntosh, one of the current selectors, will also attend.

Yesterday I wrote, on the basis of the original request, which was to discuss the Bok team and Jake, that it was just another wasted expense for the South African Rugby Union and another example of the lack of intellectual firepower running the game.

When Hoskins confirmed that four former Springbok coaches would be invited to speak with Jake White, his intention may have been good but the thought that had gone into the idea was not of the same quality. It was a shocker.

For now, when you consider what was told to Mallett, the make-up of the agenda seems to have been changed.

Still, how much will be learned in three hours in a one-off? And as I asked in my News 24 column, what would White learn from the likes of Andre Markgraaff and Rudolf Straeuli, let alone anything from Eric Sauls. What Saru would learn is that the exercise had cost them a few more thousand in travel.

I still maintain that if anyone was going to be invited to chat to the Bok coach it should have been the Super 14 coaches and the SA Under-21 coach because they could have offered White the insight into players he has never coached.

The biggest criticism of White is that he has not looked outside of his national group and the coach has further taken flak for going on record and saying there are no better players available in South Africa to the national squad.

This sentiment would either have been confirmed or challenged by the five Super 14 coaches and SA Under-21 coach. Heyneke Meyer would be able to give White a detailed breakdown of where best to play Pierre Spies because he coaches him for 10 months of the year. He would be able to give White answers to whatever concerns White may have about Johan Roets’s supposed lack of pace.

Dick Muir could show him, through detailed analysis why Warren Britz gets chosen ahead of Solly Tyibilika and what value, if any, Brad Barritt could give the Bok backs.

Rassie Erasmus has plenty to offer technically and there’s the issue of Willem de Waal and Meyer Bosman. Why do he and White differ in opinion on this player? It means we will finally have a rugby discussion about players who could potentially strengthen the Boks. And it is rugby discussions that are so lacking in the national framework.

Then there’s Kobus van der Merwe, who can build a case for Luke Watson or confirm White’s fears that Watson may be a destructive influence, as White has suggested to several rugby writers. Is it fair that Watson isn’t picked because the senior players in the Bok squad don’t want him? Is there any justification in this kind of stance from senior players who have lost five Tests in succession?

Loffie Eloff can represent the Cats. He’s mentor to Andre Pretorius. He knows how to get the maximum out of the player. What’s his secret?

Then there’s gameplan strategy. How did the Cheetahs neutralise the Hurricanes? How did the Stormers manage to upset the Crusaders? Why were the Sharks tight five so dominant against pretty much the same All Blacks tight five that stood its ground against the Boks in Pretoria? These are just some examples of things that could be discussed.

Peter de Villiers has worked with the Under-21s for two years. He has loads to offer White when it comes to player discussion.

That is what this meeting should have been about.