White goes defensive

Springbok coach Jake White made a concerted effort talk up Ireland ahead of their clash at Lansdowne Road.

In 2004 White committed a faux pas of massive proportions when he commented that only three Irish players would make the Springbok squad. The Boks subsequently lost 17-12, and White was left to mull over his impertinent statements.

He though laughed that off at a press conference yesterday saying: “Just for the record, I didn’t say three that were good enough.

“But I’ve been helped by Dr Syd Millar. He’s now informed me that IRB (International Rugby Board) regulations say you can’t play for more than one country, so I wouldn’t have been allowed to pick any of them.”

Speaking to the Irish Independent, White was full of praise for Irish rugby.

“You have to give credit to Irish rugby. Munster and Leinster have been dominant, they’ve kept the same group of players together,” he said.

“They have a 10-week period off, which has been consistent in terms of their rehab and conditioning.

“They play in Ireland. Their forward pack plays for one region and most of their backs play in another region. The half-backs play together.

“There’s so many positives that Ireland has right. I was speaking to Clive Woodward a couple of years ago and the one thing he did say was that the Irish model is definitely one which needs to be looked at.

“They will be hitting the ground running on Saturday. They have consistency of selection with virtually no injuries and just one change . . . probably what most coaches are envious of.”

Team manager Zola Yeye attempted to explain the thinking behind handing debuts to Francois Steyn, Jaco Pretorius and Bevin Fortuin, stressing that the Boks were working towards a shared goal.

“We are building for the World Cup. There is a mission and this is the start of that mission,” he said.

White took a similar view. “Our preparation has been good because, for the first time in a long time, we’ve had two weeks after the Currie Cup final to prepare.

“I’ve also very optimistic about the three new caps. What’s exciting about them is that they have all been involved at sevens level. So there’s an opportunity there to create a bit, an area we are trying to work on.

“We are working on our counter-attack and creating abilities. Bevin and Francois showed in the Currie Cup that they can kick as well, if required.”

Whites youthful team are an untried package that could perform spectacularly or bomb big time but he was confident that it would be the former.

“There’s a huge amount of expectation and excitement about this team, because no one knows what to expect. And that even goes down to some of the players in the team.”