Fire the selectors

Keo, in his Business Day column writes that the Bok team needs decent selectors and not two Jake White yes men.

The only victory the Springbok coaching staff could claim after Dublin was one of a lesson learnt.

But there was too little to suggest that another record-breaking defeat had changed the opinion of the head coach that he is getting selections wrong.

In reality, there were no lessons learnt in Dublin. That is why Springbok rugby is in trouble this morning. That is why there has to be an inquisition into the Dublin debacle and not just an acceptance that this was an experimental team that took a beating against a settled home side.

The record defeat was humiliating but even worse was the refusal afterwards to acknowledge why it all went wrong.

White conceded that Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers are not a Test midfield combination but he would not concede that he erred with his loose forward combination, his tight five selections and his continued use of a one-dimensional defensive system.

White blamed players for not being able to implement the Bok “blitz defence” that has now leaked four tries on average in away Tests this season. What he could not explain was why he was still picking these players.

White refused to recognise he had got it wrong by picking three ball-carrying loose forwards, all with similar attributes but none with the ability to play an open-side role, win turnover ball and, most importantly, slow down opposition ball.

No hindsight was needed to know this selection was wrong. When the Bok coach and his selectors, Ian McIntosh and Peter Jooste, picked this tour squad, all the leading coaches in SA questioned the lack of balance among the looseforwards.

Critics asked how a Bok team could compete in the northern hemisphere armed only with bulk and height but with no expertise in playing to the ball.

White and his selectors must be held accountable because those who played will be held accountable for a performance that, defensively, was even worse than that in Brisbane this year when the Boks lost 49-0 to Australia.

These players did not pick themselves. They did not decide the defensive system or plan of attack. That was the coaching staff and so coaching staff must be judged for their faith in a bunch of players ill-equipped to compete.

The Boks missed 30 tackles against a team that was forced to make just 51. The Boks lost the rucks 55-17. There are statistics and then there are damning statistics. But even the ruck count imbalance could not be as damning as White’s stubborn refusal to admit the obsession with size and height is a coaching philosophy failure, as is the lack of progress the Bok pack has made in rucking and counter-rucking in northern hemisphere conditions.

In 2004, White and company got it wrong against Ireland and England. Two years later they are still getting it wrong. Why will it be any different in France next year? The decision makers have not changed this year and neither have the team’s results.

White feels he’s right and the rest of SA is wrong. Six Test defeats in eight starts, many by record scores, tell you one person — not the masses — is out of step.

Defending the defeat, White said he would love to go to Europe with his best team. Well, he did in 2004 and the result was no different to Dublin on Saturday. Technically, the Bok forwards were exposed. They had limited rucking skills, absolutely no counter-rucking ability and the pack as a unit did not dominate.

The selection of five line-out options yielded nothing. Ireland threw the ball in 16 times but never lost a ball through contesting Bok brilliance.

Although the Boks have regressed in two years, White will not be fired because it is not a financial option.

So what is the solution?

Fire White’s fellow selectors and find the brains that can bring common sense to selections. This is an option and a necessity.

If the coach cannot admit to his own failings, get selectors strong enough to force change. Failure to do so will result in more record failures.

Saturday’s result hurt SA’s rugby but the coach’s denials were even more damaging.