Jake’s joker 6, 7 and 8 cards

Coach Jake White’s refusal to acknowledge the relevance of a specialist open-side flanker in the northern hemisphere has proved disastrous for the Springboks.

Match statistics from the defeats against Ireland and England are alarmingly weighted in the favour of the hosts and shows up the folly of White’s insistence that an open-sider is not a necessity in test rugby.

In the two tests the Boks battled for ball to such an extent that Ireland and England made 321 passes to South Africa’s 151. The Boks made almost double the amount of tackles, 187 to 100, while the ruck and pass domination was a staggering 120 to 46 to the home teams.

The most damning statistic that shows up the lack of impact White’s loose-trio has had in the two test matches is that the Boks won 18 turnovers to the 17 of Ireland and England’s. It is damning because the Boks, by virtue of Ireland and England’s dominance of the ball, had nearly three times the breakdowns to contest. Ireland and England took the ball into the contest 138 times and the Boks won it back on 18 occasions. The Boks were the attackers at just 63 rucks and they lost it 17 times.

I spoke to several prominent coaches in South Africa and analysts and asked them for their interpretation of the breakdown statistics. All of them expressed a similar view that the Boks were unable to provide continuity because no openside flanker had been selected.

What compounded the situation was the absence of a mobile hooker.

The Boks were making double the amount of tackles because there was no one to turn over the opposition ball. Both Ireland and England were comfortable in retaining possession and recycling this possession. England made a mess of the possession, but alarmingly still comfortably took it through 10 and 20 phases on occasions. Ireland did the same, but the class of their back division and cohesion between the loose-forwards and halfbacks meant they easily broke down the Bok defence with 18 linebreaks.

White on this tour has opted for three loose-forwards capable of providing lineout options, but his search for a potent lineout has been at the expense of speed and accuracy in the support play. When the Boks did make a linebreak there was rarely one of the loose-forwards running on the inside shoulder of the linebreaker.

Against England it was at its worst when Akona Ndungane and Francois Steyn were both put into space and confronted with a one on one with Josh Lewsey. A traditional open-sider’s angle of run would have been on the inside shoulder of the player with ball in hand. It didn’t happen for the Boks because the national coach, unlike every other coach in the country (or for that matter the world), doesn’t see the value of picking one of his loose-forwards to do that function.

England’s public is not being fooled by the mediocrity of performance in winning for the first time in eight tests and the South African public should also not be fooled that the Bok defeat was more heroic than it was horrid.

With the right selections and strategy England should have been dismantled and Andy Robinson should be looking for a new job today. The Boks should also have won for the first time in 10 years.

Ireland, France, New Zealand and Argentina have all won at Twickenham in the last two years. The Boks have not.

White got his selection balance wrong, just like he did in Dublin and just like he did in 2004 against Ireland and England. Even in 2004, Schalk Burger was not a decisive factor in the northern hemisphere because he is not a natural open-sider.

Burger, at his peak, is a freak who is capable in this role in southern hemisphere conditions. Against Ireland and England in 2004 he looked lost and frustrated playing against specialist open-siders.

You would have thought the lessons would have been learned two years ago. They haven’t because White did not believe there was a lesson taught. The coach stubbornly believes in picking tall loose-forwards, but all that the last two tests have shown is that the only thing we can learn from this history is that White has learned nothing.

The additional lineout options have won the Boks four against the throw on this tour and they’ve also lost four against the throw. They’ve scored a try from one against the throw and they’ve also conceded a try from one against the throw.

White continues to believe his philosophy is right and every critic and South African coach who thinks otherwise is wrong.

What White can’t argue with is a record that reads played 12 overseas against New Zealand, Australia, England, France and Ireland and lost 11.

In the Northern Hemisphere White has played Ireland twice, England twice and France once and every time he has done the same thing and got the same result – a defeat.

Now he has introduced Kabamba Floors into the mix – a month after saying the player simply did not fit into the Boks’ playing style? It makes no sense, unless there is an acknowledgement that if Floors plays, he does so as an open-sider.

It is fantastic that Floors has been called up, but it does make a mockery of White’s mantra that he could not fly Luke Watson to New Zealand earlier this year because the player would not have enough time to learn the team playing systems.

Floors will have one training run with the team at Wasps on Tuesday morning, but White has already confirmed he will be in the match 22.

Don’t ask where the logic is in that because logic is not something you’d associate with Bok selections.