World Cup-winning coach Jake White would pick Earl Rose in the Springbok squad for the British and Irish Lions series.
White told Keo.co.za Rose had the skills of Australian utility back Matt Giteau and that an emphasis should be placed on adding a few kilograms to his sleight frame. White said Bok coach Peter de Villiers was right to take Rose on tour last year and that the next step would be continued exposure against the Lions.
‘Earl has his detractors, but I think he is a very good player, who is blessed with natural skill, speed and a very good line and goal kicking game. But I would play him exclusively as a flyhalf. I believe it is his best position, and if you had a player like Fourie du Preez on his inside and Jean de Villiers on his outside, he would get even better.’
White said Butch James would have been his option to start against the Lions, but with James injured, the obvious choice was Sharks utility back Ruan Pienaar. Next is line, in White’s world, would be Rose.
‘I don’t know if Peter sees him as a fullback or flyhalf, but I think his future is at No 10 and that he was done no favours with the Lions selections in the Super 14 this season. He is the 10 they should have invested in as he is the best in the province,’ said White. ‘Andre Pretorius has been there but never kicked on and I believe Rose offers more in terms of his attack. I also think he is a very courageous player, but to realise his potential in international rugby he will have to add three to five kilograms, which would give him a physicality similar to Giteau, who is one of the finest players in the game.
‘If there was the right investment in Rose and he was put through an effective conditioning programme then he could be a big star for the Springboks.’
White said he had seen a lot in Rose’s individual play in the last two seasons that would justify his inclusion in the Bok squad.
‘I want to emphasise that what I have seen is when he plays flyhalf. What has to improve is his decision-making, but he is young and like Frans Steyn he tries things instinctively. If he had the experience of Du Preez and De Villiers guiding him, it would add a maturity to that natural talent.’
White, in response to whispers De Villiers would start with Jaque Fourie at fullback, said Fourie’s best position was outside centre and that playing him at fullback would nullify the Boks’ attacking potential because of his limited line-kicking game.
‘I have been vocal about why I would play Steyn at fullback. He has the biggest line kicking and drop kicking game in the world and any kick on him is an advantage to the Springboks. With players not allowed to kick the ball directly into touch, any kick on Steyn gives him the option of having a drop goal, and I’d encourage him to have a crack most times. It is an all-win situation because if he gets it over, it is three points and if he misses, the Boks get the ball back from the restart. If you play a fullback without a kicking game against the likes of Ronan O’Gara and Stephen Jones, you are giving them a decided advantage before kick-off because those two know how to play percentage rugby and they will turn Jaque all day, knowing they will outkick him and knowing that his strength is running it back, which adds a risk element that shouldn’t be a part of the Boks’ strategy.’
White said he would also definitely include the experience of CJ van der Linde to give the front row solidity and he would start with John Smit as a hooker and Bismarck du Plessis as his back-up.
‘You want continuity and familiarity against these guys. They only visit once every 12 years and it is a series to be viewed in isolation. I’d pick players in positions I know they are strong and not in ones where they have the potential to be strong.’
De Villiers is expected to name his squad once South Africa’s participation in the Super 14 is complete, and while he has hinted at a few shocks, White said the inclusion of Jano Vermaak (at scrumhalf) and Rose (at flyhalf) would be justified and not a shock.
‘I’d also include Vermaak ahead of (Rory) Kockott, and Rose edges Morne Steyn, although Steyn wouldn’t be out of place in a national set-up. By all accounts Peter will be in a position to pick a very balanced and settled team. The key, like with any match, is never to underestimate the opposition and to be well prepared, and based on the experience of the players I can’t see them falling into this trap.’
White, who has started his own company ‘Jake White’s Winning Way’, will launch the first of his his satellite academies for schools, club and professional coaches in June, with the three day courses in Bloemfontein, Stellenbosch, Durban and Johannesburg.
White will identify the 10 leading coaches, who will receive R125 000 prize money, and develop their coaching skills over the remainder of the year.
‘We focus on the players, but never the coaches. That hopefully will change once the courses gain momentum and we have a data base to work from. First prize is going to be that a future Bok coach comes from the coaches, whose skills we will improve.’
Eddie Jones, a partner in Jake White’s Winning Way, will join White in South Africa for the June courses.