Rugby

Jake to lure South Africans

2012-02-01 09:07
Jake White (Gallo)
Canberra - Brumbies coach Jake White wants to use a new alliance with the University of Canberra as the extra bait to lure South Africa's most talented juniors to the capital.

The Brumbies have boosted their immediate finances on the eve of the Super Rugby competition by announcing a one-year naming rights sponsorship with the University of Canberra, worth an estimated $1million.

But White, who guided South Africa to the 2007 World Cup, is determined to convert the relationship into a long-term gain for his playing roster.

White plans to capitalise on the strong connection between rugby and education in South Africa. As a former Springboks coach, he still holds a lot of influence on where South Africa's rising stars choose to play.

"I would love to attract some boys to come and play rugby in Australia," White said.

"Every day I get calls from dads [in South Africa] asking where I suggest their kid can play.

"It shouldn't be underestimated a lot of South Africans will see this link and see it as an opportunity [to come and try to play for the Brumbies].

"Our challenge is to make sure we at the Brumbies do our homework ... it can't just be a sponsorship arrangement, it has to be a genuine boost and partnership."

When White signed a four-year deal to coach the Brumbies last May, he expressed his desire to recruit South African schoolboy stars and get them to train in the club's development programs.

Now he wants university delegates to travel with the Brumbies to South Africa in April and organise meetings with top young players.

White knows first hand how passionate South Africans are about rugby.

He has been coaching in schools since 1982 and high schools and universities have extremely strong allegiances to their rugby teams.

The Brumbies are allowed three foreign players on their roster - one marquee signing and two developing internationals. Dan Vickerman and Clyde Rathbone are two examples of South Africans who have played with the Brumbies and gone on to represent the Wallabies.

White said he would not try to influence young players to choose between committing to the Wallabies or Springboks, but he was confident South African junior stars could be enticed to join the Brumbies and the university.

"Nothing would hurt me more than to tell a South African dad to bring his kid here and he doesn't leave Canberra a better player," White said.

"I don't want these boys to come here and to be a Brumbies fan, I want him to come here with an opportunity to play for the Brumbies.

"There's no reason why it can't happen, I get excited because we're sitting on something great, but we can't just offer an opportunity to study.

"It's going to promote rugby in Canberra and increase the standard of rugby we have here.

"It won't happen in year one, but it will be sustainable for South African and New Zealand boys to come here and study."

White warned the agreement needed to be more than "lip service" to ensure he could attract the best recruits and turn them into better players in Canberra.

The university will get maximum exposure in South Africa and New Zealand when the Super Rugby season begins on February 24.

Rugby is the No 1 sport in both countries and more than 4 million viewers watched the Brumbies' games last season

Twenty-three per cent of the university's student population is from overseas, but only a small minority is from South Africa or New Zealand with most travelling from China and South East Asia.

The Brumbies could also move their base to the university campus in the coming years.

The club had its plans to redevelop Griffith Oval blocked on heritage grounds in 2010 and is currently awaiting a decision on its contentious application to rezone the site of its headquarters for redevelopment as apartments.

Read more on:    jake white
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