MaCinJay’s Musings

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New Bok coach

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SARU finally announced Jake White’s successor today – Pieter De Villiers edged out favourite Heyneke Meyer. Apparently he was chosen at least in part to show South African Rugby’s commitment to “transformation”; De Villiers is coloured, which qualifies him as “previously disadvantaged” in South Africa’s political lingua franca.

It’s tough on Meyer who has a Super 14 and a couple of Currie Cup Final wins under his belt. Then again De Villiers’s coaching background bears some resemblance to that of Jake White so perhaps it will prove to be a good appointment. I fear for De Villiers though as he has such a hard act to follow. If the Springboks are unable to maintain the high standards that they set for themselves in the World Cup fingers will be pointed at the new coach, who will be seen as little more than a token.

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Written by macinjay

January 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Jake tells it “In Black and White”

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I borrowed a copy of Jake White’s autobiography from a colleague to read during my second week in Boswana. It’s an engrossing book with one underlying theme: his boundless passion for the game of rugby, from his schooldays as a player to his crowning achievement as coach of the World Cup Champions. White’s account lays bare his stormy relationship with the South Africa Rugby Union and sheds light on the Luke Watson affair.

According to White the Watson family approached him via an intermediary to pick the Stormers captain in his squad in return for his survival as Springbok coach. Fearful of losing his position on the cusp of taking his team to the World Cup, White eventually accepted the offer only for the Watson family to then withdraw it. As previously related White subsequently came under pressure from SAFU to select Watson, which led to the subsequent inclusion of the player against the coach’s will.

Less controversial perhaps, but no less fascinating, is White’s account of his time as technical analyst to former coach Nick Mallett’s Springbok side, which culminated in his axing from the position after a fall-out with assistant coach Alan Solomons over selection policy. Interestingly, a similar fate befell White after he was appointed as assistant to Harry Viljoen (who replaced Mallett as Bok coach) following a stint with Natal.

White’s sense of redemption is palpable in the chapter dealing with the World Cup victory, which I’m sure will not be diminished in any way by the surprise loss to the Barbarians in his last game in charge. The book does end on a sour note though, understandably so considering his casual mistreatment at the hands of SAFU.

Goodbye Jake, you will be missed.

Boks win White’s final test in charge

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For me there is always a sense of ennui after a major sporting tournament. So I was not particularly looking forward to the game against Wales, especially after the furore over Jake White’s resignation, and did not get to see it as we had other plans.

It is good to see though that the team gave him a fitting send-off, beating Wales 34-12. Now all that’s left is the game against the Barbarians side next weekend and the White era will be over, at least as far as the Springboks go.

I am looking forward to reading his autobiography In Black and White (clever title that), which apparently gives the lowdown on the politicking behind the scenes by the likes of Luke Watson’s father Cheeky. The book was sold out when we went shopping yesterday and I have heard that more copies have been bought here than the latest Harry Potter instalment, which is no mean feat.

Should be a fascinating read.

Written by macinjay

November 25, 2007 at 9:20 am

White resigns

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It certainly didn’t take long for South African rugby supporters to be brought down to earth after the Bok’s World Cup triumph – Jake White announced today that he would vacate his position after the Barbarians tour at the end of the year. Frankly it’s the mark of the quality of the man that he didn’t resign before the World Cup even began, considering the treatment meted out to him by the SA Rugby Union. This culminated in their bizarre selection of Western Province captain Luke Watson for the preliminary squad, despite the fact that White never wanted the player in the team. Inexplicably though Watson never made it to Paris – I suspect that White told SARU that if Watson was put in the final squad against his wishes, he would walk. Supposedly even SARU weren’t stupid enough to let the the national team’s coach resign on the eve of the World Cup.

The final straw for White must have been the announcement of the shortlist for the coach’s position, one that didn’t include his name. In any other country the administrators would be falling over themselves to keep the World Cup-winning coach in the job!

Written by macinjay

October 31, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Boks triumphant

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South Africa 15 – England 6 In the end my dream final didn’t live up to expectations. SA looked like they were playing within themselves, content to contest England in an aerial chess match. This is a mark of the quality of the side; unlike the much-fancied New Zealand they were able to adapt their style of play to the circumstances in this tournament. Before the game there was a worry about the Bok’s srummaging, but England’s supposed dominance in this phase never materialised. Perhaps it might have been different if Mark Cueto’s try had been allowed but I felt that SA were playing within themselves and would have been able to step up a gear or two if necessary. In any event I think that there can few arguments that the best side won the tournament.

Written by macinjay

October 22, 2007 at 10:03 am

Bok line-up

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The Bok line-up for Saturday’s final has been released. Here are my ratings for each player out of ten:

The starting 15

  • Percy Montgomery (9) – This guy is like a fine wine; he gets better with age. His kicking will be crucial.
  • JP Pietersen (7) – Has had a reasonable tournament but the weakest backline player in the starting 15 in my opinion.
  • Jaque Fourie (8) – Not as flashy as centre partner Steyn but solid as a rock.
  • Francois Steyn (8) – A fabulous talent but prone to the occasional howler, hopefully not come match-day.
  • Bryan Habana (10) – The standout player of the World Cup. ‘Nuff said.
  • Butch James (8) – The Bok flyhalf has really impressed in this tournament with his tactical awareness and composure.
  • Fourie Du Preez (8) – Was outstanding in the first game against England but didn’t look quite as solid in the other matches.
  • Danie Roussouw (7) – Hasn’t convinced me he is good enough to play in the eighthman position.
  • Juan Smith (9) – Arguably the best player in his position in the tournament.
  • Schalk Burger (8) – Always makes a very valuable contribution but hasn’t quite reached the heights in this tournament that won him the IRB Player of the Year Award.
  • Victor Matfield (9) – A peerless lineout jumper with handling skills that many backline players would kill for.
  • Bakkies Botha (8) – A fine lineout player in his own right, his direct approach makes him a good foil to Matfield.
  • CJ Van Der Linde (7) – Looked vulnerable in the frontrow against the Argies after coming back from injury. Hopefully he will be fully recovered for the final.
  • John Smit (9) – SA rugby fans have argued in the past that Smit isn’t a good enough player to wear the Springbok number 2 jersey, but he hasn’t put a foot wrong in this tournament. And no-one in the side can step into his shoes as captain.
  • Os Du Randt (8) – Not quite the force of old but his powerful scrummaging and all-round experience will be invaluable.

The bench

  • Bismark du Plessis (7)
  • Jannie du Plessis (7)
  • Johannes Muller (7)
  • Wickus van Heerden (8)
  • Ruan Pienaar (8)
  • Andre Pretorius (6)
  • Wynand Olivier (7)

Written by macinjay

October 19, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Rugby

South Africa join England in Final

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South Africa 37 – Argentina 13 This was a game too far for Argentina. They did well to upset France in the tournament opener but I never thought they would have the quality to challenge the Boks. South Africa went in 24-6 at halftime without really breaking a sweat, a lot of their points coming from the Pumas’ mistakes. In the second half it looked like the Argentineans might make a fist of it after Manuel Contempomi scored a well-worked try. But after that they seemed to run out of ideas and the Boks responded with tries of their own from Danie Roussouw and Bryan Habana, who equalled Jonah Lomuh’s eight-try World Cup haul with his second touchdown of the match. I think that coach Jake White will be concerned though about the performance of the Bok forwards who were slow to the breakdowns and failed to secure the ball from the restart on several occasions. The scrum also looked creaky although this phase of the game is traditionally one of Argentina’s strengths. No doubt he will be hoping that South Africa can replicate their performance in their previous game against England to beat them in the final, but it won’t be as easy against a much-improved side. It’s going to be one hell of a game!

Written by macinjay

October 14, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Rugby