Brumbies coach Jake White says Australia’s relative lack of depth in comparison to South Africa and New Zealand undermines their Super Rugby cause.
The former Springbok coach explained that the salary cap and squad restriction (30 players) compounded the problem but primarily bemoaned the absence of quality feeder systems in Australia.
‘There is no academy – so there’s no junior age groups you can pull players from. So you really can’t underestimate what Ewen McKenzie did with the Reds last year – for an Australian team to win the title was a fantastic achievement,’ White said.
‘The main difficulty I am having is when you don’t have an academy and you don’t have an U21 side it makes it tough to have the required depth. [South African] teams, like the Bulls and Sharks, can draw in U21 players, while New Zealand teams can draw in players from their provincial competition.
‘The Blues can drag in players from North Harbour, the Chiefs can get players from Taranaki and so on. And in South Africa, they can bring in players from other areas. But here it is different. That is the difficulty of coaching an Australian franchise. You are playing in the competition involving 15 teams and five teams have restrictions the other 10 don’t have.’
There has been a mass exodus of senior players from the Canberra franchise including Rocky Elsom, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau and Stephen Hoiles, leaving them short of experience and largely reliant on young players. However, White explained that they were still in better shape than some franchises.
‘We are as good as we can be in that framework … At this point in time, the Brumbies have a lot of positives other teams don’t have. I have 32 guys fit and ready to play, whereas other franchises have a lot of injuries. As much as the squad is inexperienced and new, there are bonuses,’ he said.
White added that he could not appoint a captain at this point. ‘I’ve just joined them, I don’t really know the players and haven’t seen them play. So it would be unfair for me to immediately announce a captain,” White said.
‘There are a lot of guys there who have leadership potential but the most important thing is that I’m looking for a captain who complements me and brings the best out in the group.’