Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Jake White wants his old job back - but only as an interim measure to help get Springbok rugby back on track before handing over to his former assistant, Allister Coetzee, after 2011.
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The former Springbok coach, in arguing that he should be given the chance to be a caretaker coach for the Boks until the World Cup in New Zealand, reckons that 12 months is enough time for him to turn the team around and prepare them for a second consecutive World Cup title.
The clamour for incumbent Bok coach Peter de Villiers has increased following the defeat to Australia at the weekend which leaves the South Africans looking back at a lamentable year since they won the Tri-Nations last September.
White told The Times newspaper on Sunday that he would like a chance to fix the Boks as a crisis measure, but elaborated further in a chat with Supersport.co.za on Monday. He said he agrees with the view of many critics that the blunders that have been made along the way to a record which reads lost seven and won six in that time period, mean De Villiers should make way for someone new, even at this late stage in the build-up to the next World Cup.
The former Bok mentor, who guided the Boks from the nadir they had reached at the end of the Rudolf Straeuli reign to respectability and then the World Cup title in 2007, believes his former assistant, Coetzee, is the future for the Boks long-term. But he says it would be unfair to bring the current Western Province and Stormers coach into the system as Bok head coach as replacement for De Villiers just 12 months before the World Cup.
“Allister was the man who should have been appointed to replace me after the last World Cup. I said so at the time, and I remain convinced about that,” said White on Monday.
“But I think it might be a bit unfair on Allister, or anyone else for that matter, to be brought in on a 12 month contract and expected to fix it in that space of time with no guarantee that they will stay on beyond the World Cup. When you take over the national job, you do need a bit of time to grow into it.
“At a World Cup you need someone who has been a head coach at international level for a while. I am prepared to do that job and take it on a temporary basis. I have experience of what is required, I know the players because two thirds of the guys who make up the core group were players I coached up until the last World Cup.”
Some might think White is an opportunist by putting up his hand to coach the Boks at this time when there is so much growing pressure De Villiers following a last placed finish in the Tri-Nations, but White says he has just become so frustrated seeing the reputation he helped the Boks build being destroyed by poor decisions and tactics.
That is why after initially saying he wanted a chance to take on a second term after De Villiers’ contract has run its course at the end of 2011, White is now wanting to take the job on now. He has spoken to South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins, and if his proposal is accepted, he will re-employ former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones as his assistant.
“I have spoken to Eddie and he is very eager to get involved again if the opportunity arises and he would love to have a crack at winning another World Cup,” said White.
After that, however, White would want to hand over the reins to Coetzee, who together with current Ireland forwards coach Gert Smal, was at his side throughout his successful reign as Bok coach from 2004 to the end of 2007.
“I definitely do think Allister is the man to take the Boks to the next World Cup after this one and I would like to help pave the way for him by using the next 12 months to get the Boks back on the right path.”
White is emphatic that 12 months is enough time for the Boks to come right with the correct guidance, and cites the late Kitch Christie, the man who guided South Africa to its first World Cup title in 1995, as an example of someone who successfully carried off an “ambulance job”.
“It’s not too late for the Boks to change coach, Kitch did it successfully and I would want to take the job on similar terms,” said White.
“We were the strongest defensive team in world rugby a short while ago, now suddenly we are conceding 22 tries in a Tri-Nations season. That is unacceptable, and there are such elementary mistakes that are being made. It’s extremely frustrating to watch it happen and it saddens me to see it.
“Neither myself or Eddie are in contract with anyone at the moment, we can start next week if Saru want us to. We are available to work with the Boks again, and I have told Oregan Hoskins as much. To me it’s hard to imagine how they can think they can carry on with the current set-up, but getting someone with the necessary experience in for just 12 months is going to be difficult.
“I have the advantage of having worked with most of the players, I live in South Africa and know the personalities and the issues. The players we have in this country are good enough to win a World Cup, they just need guidance.”