Boks dropped the baton – Jake

Jake White

Following the biggest defeat in Springbok history everyone wants to know how that happened. The answer is, it’s been coming for some time.

Over the past four years we’ve won 24 of 43 matches and have suffered historic losses against Japan, Argentina, Italy and Wales. Like it or not, that’s where it started because if players play in a team that’s losing to those sorts of countries, the juniors at the coalface of those defeats never forget them.

When I coached at Jeppe High School, we used to play a local derby against KES once every season, and inevitably what would happen is that one school would have the edge on the other school. You could have a crackerjack side, and everyone thought this was going to be the year, and then the derby is your worst performance of the season and, after winning 21 of 23 matches, that loss is the one everyone remembers.

Then one year it was decided that there weren’t enough fixtures in the season among the big, boy schools so, instead of playing weaker schools, we started playing the bigger schools twice every season. That was a turning point for us.

After losing the first one against KES, we won the return match and when we beat them it was like the monkey was off our back.

Under the old schedule, that first loss would have meant that every matric boy in the team would never have got another crack at them, they would have had to live with their KES rivals holding the bragging rights forever, and the Standard 9s in that team would have taken that baggage with them into the following season.

That encapsulates everything that’s wrong with the Springboks. The term of reference that our young players have is of losing to Italy, Wales, Japan and Argentina for South Africa. So when the coach tells them that they’re good enough to beat the All Blacks, England and the Wallabies, as much as they want to believe it, that message doesn’t match their experience.

We’ve discarded all of the guys who have the experience of beating the world’s best teams.

Malcolm Marx is going to be a great Springbok, but he would get there much quicker if he was given the baton by Bismarck du Plessis. Bismarck got the baton from John Smit.

Duane Vermeulen should be playing to give stability to the team and make sure that the next Bok No 8 knows what to do to win the big games, and that applies across the team.

We’ve got Raymond Rhule, Andries Coetzee and Courtnall Skosan all playing in their first season as Springboks together. There’s no team in the world that will win like that.

As a schoolboy coach, if you played three Standard 9s in the back three you would get hammered – and you’d only do it because you’ve got nobody else. In South Africa, you can’t say we’ve got nobody else. Bryan Habana and Frans Steyn should be there handing over the baton to one of those players.

People have their favourites, but sometimes it’s not about what the public sees and perceives, it’s about what happens behind the scenes that is important for the development of the young players.

Ruan Pienaar is still firing on all cylinders in top-class rugby. Pundits in South Africa are saying we don’t have a halfback now that we’ve just dropped Francois Hougaard, but Pienaar has 88 Test caps and he’s still playing against the best players in the world.

Some will highlight times when he didn’t perform, but they don’t see what a player like that does for the youngsters in a squad, on and off the field, to help build for the future. And that’s what coaching is all about, the development of how you put a team together.

Everyone is searching for a reason why the Boks are struggling but the thing staring us in the face is that there’s no one handing over the baton.

At Jeppe, we had Founders Day where all the old boys playing provincial rugby would come and play against the first team. That meant that when there was a scrum, the Transvaal U20 loosehead would be coaching the first team tighthead about the tricks of the trade.

The old boys weren’t there to win, they were there to tell the first team guys what to expect. This is what is missing in South Africa, and it’s the reason we’re in a hole.

The All Blacks have put a premium on handing over the baton. Sam Cane had 30 Test caps under the belt when he took over from Richie McCaw. The Bulls got that right under Heyneke Meyer – Fourie du Preez learnt from Joost van der Westhuizen – and that’s part of the reason for their success.

There is no magic wand to fix it now because it’s not about who should be on the field, it’s about who should have been handing over the baton to make sure we were prepared.

Let’s not forget that we were world champions; we were the number one side in the world. But we won’t get back there until we come round to what is a fundamental theory of sport.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Sharky

    Jake you hit the nail on the head!! A week or so ago I posted what I though would be a better squad than the one AC has given us. In that squad I selected an experienced player in just about every position for precisely the reasons Jake gives.

    In Albany when the Boks gave away those 2 quick tries there was no one in the team to snap the youngsters out of the downward spiral that followed. There was no John Smit, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez or Jean de Villiers. No one who had the maturity and experience to pull the guys together.

    Eben and Beast were the most capped players in the team that day but Eben (though experienced) is still young and Beast (though a standout guy) is gentle giant – not a leader. Last week I listened to Brendan Venter wax lyrical on another website about the gees in the team. No disrespect to the man (he is a fantastic rugby mind), but no amount of gees will replace the influence those older, wiser players have in those situations where you are under the cosh. Gees is an emotion and as such it is fleeting – it can evaporate in an instant. And in Albany it did just that.

    Anyway, here’s my alternative squad again (ordered by position and preference):

    Forwards (17)
    Tendai Mtawarira (loosehead prop)
    Steven Kitshoff (loosehead prop)
    Malcolm Marx (hooker)
    Bismark du Plessis (hooker)
    Akker van der Merwe (hooker)
    Ruan Dreyer (tighthead prop)
    Lourens Adriaanse (tighthead prop)
    Trevor Nyakane (tighthead prop)
    Eben Etzebeth (lock, captain)
    Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock)
    Franco Mostert (lock)
    Lood de Jager (lock)
    Siya Kolisi (flank)
    Francois Louw (flank)
    Jean-Luc du Preez (flank)
    Marcel Coetzee (flank)
    Philip van der Walt (No 8)

    Backs (15)
    Ross Cronje (scrumhalf)
    Ruan Pienaar (scrumhalf)
    Rudy Paige (scrumhalf)
    Elton Jantjies (flyhalf)
    Handré Pollard (flyhalf)
    Curwin Bosch (flyhalf)
    Rohan Janse van Rensburg (centre)
    Lukhanyo Am (centre)
    Frans Steyn (centre/fullback/flyhalf)
    Jan Serfontein (centre)
    Ruan Combrink (wing)
    JP Pietersen (wing)
    S’busiso Nkosi (wing)
    Dillyn Leyds (fullback/wing)
    Andries Coetzee (fullback)

    Injured players who would have been considered (note the number of tightheads!):
    Julian Redelinghuys (tighthead prop)
    Coenie Oosthuizen (tighthead prop)
    Frans Malherbe (tighthead prop)
    Jaco Kriel (flank)
    Warren Whiteley (No 8)
    Duane Vermeulen (No 8)
    Patrick Lambie (Flyhalf)

    • minging

      Fair few there not eligible and why still keep Nyanke there… he has NEVER had an above average game at TH? But I agree… there are plenty of experienced eligible players that are better than the current incumbents playing both at home and up North. ABs do not just discard their players like Coles and SBW once they are past 30.

    • Martin

      Great team in your selection Sharky and I also agree with Jake on the matter and that is were we went wrong.

    • Tuohred

      Didn’t Lood receive baton at world cup, but has then been snubbed? Learned calling and dark arts of lineout from the master?

    • Deon

      Jake that is the difference between the current coach and you that won the world cup! You must have the old experience players to shadow and groom the youngsters. Look how the Bulls got more calm on the field when Victor returned! And Victor’s generation were shadowed by Joost and them! Coatzee messed up the a Stormers team who played in the super rugby final under Rassie! The same old continuity speeches he gave then is echoing now again!

      • Robert

        Victor could not make it in the second league in France.
        Sad how the Ruperts bought 2007 .
        1995 Louis Luyt
        Rugby is sad.
        Happy to see All Blacks havnt gpt the deceit of Louis or Anton but play rugby.
        57 – 0 a true reflection.
        There is no transformation in SA Rugby whem that day happens we will honestly compete against the All Blacks

      • Robert

        1995 world cup biggest farce in sport.

        • Giovanni Evangelista


        • kannike

          what you talking about?

    • Grant Hoole

      Good squad, but unfortunately not enough players of colour to the government’s liking in there. A minimum of 16 players of colour will go to the world cup in 2019, so they need to identify them and prepare them for the showpiece.

      • David

        Quotas play rugby but are not rugby players…like not all pianists are musicians

  • Michael Perrins

    Excellent stuff, Jake – your analysis is spot on!

    • Michael Dick

      I have to concur with your sentiment – Michael Perrins

  • Peter

    Jake just have negative things to say about the current Springbok team. He is the same guy who said that South Africa will lose the series against France because the Springbok coaches didn’t consult with himself and other South Africans applying their trade in France.
    And we all know, the reason why he has a RWC winning medal is because of Eddie Jones. Jake Whites Springboks were rubbish before 2007.

    • minging

      The further irony of your misguided post is that Jake had to get Eddie Jones in because the very same Coetzee was such a crap backline coach that was being carried!

    • minging

      Jake was extremely supportive of Coetzee in the beginning. He is 100% correct now!

    • Dogboy

      I think Jake won a Tri-nations without Eddie…. Roll another one mate!

      • Leopold van Zyl

        He won a tri-nations AGAINST Eddie! Lol!

    • Billy

      I totally agree with you Peter. With Eddie Jones and the senior players that we had in 2007 we would have won the World Cup anyway

    • Frankie Knuckles

      Get off the methamphetamines!
      Remember the Boks beating The All Blacks 44-26 in Jakes first year?
      He was just as hamstrung by politics- remember Luke Watson?
      Yeah four years of work attributed to Jones after 3 weeks with the squad?
      You must be a plumber, mate?!?! Been sniffing too much of other peoples shit. Gone to your lone braincell.

    • Gaz

      Cool, ok then why don’t you start with the positive things to say about the Bok team, setup and management at the moment? You may not like Jake but if you really think what’s he’s saying is nonsense, then you really don’t know much about the game yourself.

    • Nico

      His team won a world cup

    • Ryan

      What positives can you being forward

  • Stormers

    What about more Steyn, has A lot to give to the up coming flyhalfs.
    He has played against the big boys and alway took him as a guy who knew what he needed to do. Read a game very well. Where is he now?
    Our good player have all been forced to play oversees. Bring them for a few games to help the upcoming players. Let them play the first 50 or 60 mins of the game and then send it the upcoming players. Until the younger players are ready to play the full 80mins.

  • Zane

    And what you said Jake is only part of it.. A winning coach also needs to pass the batton on to another coach coming from a winning culture. Players being handed the batton also need to come from a winning culture. There are coaches and then there are coaches and that goes for players too. And that goes for all of the management too. We all know the expression “one bad apple”

    • minging

      Snor De Villiers was offered transitional input from Jake on many occasions. He was given the middle finger.

  • Paul Graham-Clarke

    Jake White has it spot on…special experience, even to lose, and to build back up , requires older heads to be present. It’s no different from learning a trade…one has a “master” who hands on his years of experience….so sport must have ones that do exactly the same

  • Reginald

    I totally agree with Jake. My concern is maybe there is a politically forced decision in not using overseas based players. That is why we are were we are at currently. NZ uses their best players playing in their local league or overseas based leagues. We use 1 or 2 overseas based players. Lets face it our local boys playing overseas are currently gaining very good experience and momentum. AC is going to mess up players like Skosan, Coetzee and some of the new faces on the block by throwing them into the lions den. I agree as Jake mentioned bring them in gradually so they can gain experience at National level. i also disagree with using Pollard straight away as he needs much game time and confidence. Why chose Francois Hougaard who has some test rugby experience then say he lacks the technical ability to be a top level half back, that will drop his confidence . My view is use any player be it local or abroad to become the best which we are quiet capable of being ….

  • Kosie van Niekerk

    I agree with Jake ‘s comments, it makes sense. Besides that we have a political issue and a ignorance at coaching level. We also do not have enough skilled players, especially in the backs. I do believe that Dylan lleyds will make a difference. Pollard should go to flyhalf. What about Colbe playing scrumhalf say a year or so from now. Schreuder is useless. Why does Kitshoff only come on in the second half?

    • Anvir

      We one 5 games, drawn one and lost one. In my opinion its a positive. Sometimes I wonder why we as a country always focus more on negatives than positives or weaknesses then strengths. We do in sport, schooling and business. I’m sure many of us already lost the test against the All Blacks 7th October even before they left nz. We should learn from other countries and support our people, irrespective

  • Ian James

    Jake’s article is a very useful contribution. Some of the comments are also insightful and offer great additional comment. But there are two streams of argument used by many that drag this discussion down. The first is politics. Get over it. It’s our life. And we have apartheid to thank for it. We have a history that has to be addressed. More of a challenge than the politics of colour however, is the Premiership and French Rugby. The salaries paid there far outstrip what a player can earn here. Unchecked, the natural consequence of the economics is that any South African will make haste to play in those leagues. After just 5 years they are no longer South African it seems but become another nationality. There is a comment on here that say NZ selects players from the English and French leagues. Who? I’ve just googled the last team and none are listed as English or French league players. To protect the Unions I am sure AC is told to restrict his international picks.

    • Martin

      support your comment sounds more like fact than opinion transpires into assumptions!!!!

  • Fareed Jassat

    Continuity is the name of the game. Spot on Jakes. Cannot agree more. One team must flow into the next. All great teams are based on that. Dark times for Springbok fans. But we always bounce back, don’t we?

  • Voxi Gatani

    This was the team that lost to Japan

    Kirchner; Habana, Kriel, de Villiers, Mvovo; Lambie, Pienaar; Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, De Jager, Matfield, Louw, du Toit, Burger.

    Replacements: Pietersen for Mvovo (71), Pollard for Lambie (58), du Preez for Pienaar (58), Nyakane for Mtawarira (55), Strauss for B du Plessis (54), Etzebeth for De Jager (69), Kolisi for du Toit (58) Oosthuizen for J du Plessis (58).

    Most experienced Bok team ever. I’d say this contradicts what Jake is saying.

    • Bumrusher

      Definitely NOT the “Most experienced Bok team ever.”
      But I get your point.

    • Martin

      I love facts! more to learn from them, then to speak our mind.

  • Gerhard Poel

    Wasn’t Jake supposed to hand the baton to Alistair Coetzee as his assistant coach? Doesn’t seem so…

  • John Gilberg

    Jake is correct in the sense that we would have a more knowledgeable team and the score line against the AB’s might have been more respectable. The coaching staff must be more adept at countering the AB style of play. They’ve got no excuse considering all the footage from previous games. The Wallabies coaching staff showed that by nearly outwitting the AB,s in their last game after losing so badly previously. Either the players or the coaching staff don’t shape up.

  • Bob

    Fill the stadiums by playing Currie Cup rugby at full strength as in previous years. Too many players very often absent for national duty and sides weakened. Trio nations or whatever only. once currie cup finished. Secondly follow new Zealand attitudes by not playing overseas based players

  • Jason Coetzee

    Yes All true and plausible. However I feel that the issue is far bigger than just having experienced players there to hand over the baton. First and foremost you have to have a deep pool of talented rugby players. In SA we have genetically big strong guys but their skills have seldom been up there with the other tier 1 nations. The issue comes in with the demise of the club rugby structure, whilst it is still in existance, it is a shadow of its former self and used to be the breeding ground for nurturing young talent but more importantly late developers. Not everyone comes out of school like Frans Steyn and sets the world alight. Actually there is an argument that this should not happen. Young men need to cut their teeth and learn their trade through club structures instead of being contracted to (say) the Sharks in std 9 (aka: The du Preeze trio) These vodacom cup teams should make way for the club structure to re grow and be the nursery ground for young guns to show off their skills and to develop their confidence. Robert du Preeze himself played for Harlequins on the Bluff in Durban, my team (Rovers) had the likes of Craig Jammerson, Joel Stransky, Gary Teighman and many more. All of them Boks and provincial players who where honoured to play for their chosen club and they did so for the love of the game not the money or Bling. Club rugby gave each and every one of us a bond and brotherhood along with journeyman like status to crack on and be the best we could be and develop ourselves. So you would have an 18 yr old nobody rubbing shoulders with a Springbok on a Tuesday and Thursday evening at practice and wow did we learn heaps. Money and administrators have chosen the short cut route and prefer to bypass the grass roots level of rugby and this is why we are where we are..

    • Martin

      Interesting……………..difficult to get money out of the equation – which replace the love for the sport………sad but true!

  • Christiaan Smith

    Nail on the head. Someone asked the other day here in New Zealand. If the All Blacks can replace any player in their team with a Springbok, who will that be. My conclusion no one, not like a couple of years ago.

  • Derik

    I agree in principle with Jake White. But we’ve passed the point of no return – the baton should have been passed years ago when Boks were on form. The experienced players are now old and not in form. Heyneke and Allistair (in 2016) picked experience over form, but still underperformed. In 2016 Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Morne Steyn, Habana all looked out of sorts. What use will it be bringing them back now? Perhaps as mentors, but not as squad members?

    To me the only “old boys” that should be in the Bok squad is Bismarck (Marx can be best in world, Bissie would help him get there), Frans Steyn and perhaps Duane Vermeulen (if he had not been injured). But the real problem is in form selections. Rhule, Cassiem, Hougaard, and Jesse Kriel should never have been there. Skosan and Andries Coetzee are very dependable players for the Lions, and played well but I can’t see them as international players anymore after their performances (I am a staunch Lions supporter).

    My team would be:
    15. Frans Steyn
    14. Ruan Combrinck
    13. Jan Serfontein
    12. Rohan janse van Rensburg
    11. S’bu Nkosi / Dillyn Leyds
    10. Elton Jantjies
    9. Ross Cronje
    8. Dan du Preez / Ruan Ackerman
    7. Jean-Luc du Preez / Jaco Kriel (I like Kriel, deserves to be in starting XV but can be great impact player)
    6. Siya Kolisi (I prefer Kriel, but Siya has been great, and one player that can silence politicians and is there on merit)
    5. Franco Mostert
    4. Eben Etsebeth
    3. Ruan Dreyer / Coenie if available
    2. Bismarck
    1. Beast

    16. Marx
    17. Kitshoff
    18. Lourens Adriaanse / Dreyer (if Coenie is available)
    19. Pieter-Steph du Toit
    20. Jaco Kriel
    21. Handre Pollard (can’t believe I am saying this, but who else that can cover 10 and 12?)
    22. Lukanyo Am
    23. Dillyn Leyds / S’bu Nkosi

    • Henry

      I cant agree more with Jake and Sharky. The other one point is that we try things in crucial game rather than in pre season. Why are the liked of the All Black so successful because they evolve and try things and perfect it before doing it against the likes of Australia and South Africa. When it works they then execute it perfectly and at the same have a plan b and c. South Africa does not have a plan b or c!!! So what happens now we go back to the old old way of playing stamp and stoop. There are an equal amount of possitives to this squad. The scrum evidently with. Kitshoff whom i think should start to encapulate the dominant and ensure forward momemtum and the oppertunity forcthe back forward foot. So yes lets forget about the champship which is lost anyway and concentrate on world cup 2019 and use Jake’s ideas and move forward that is if the springbok fraternity does not scoff at it. A bok i will remain forever come rain or sunshine

  • pierre

    I like all the comments above. Much more respectable forum than supers port, where racism and provincialism is in very bad taste. I think Jake makes a lot of seemingly valid points, but the criticism on it from the replies above shoots some very valid holes in Jake`s thoughts as well. In principle i agree that more senior players need to be picked to guide the younger guys. Also I think we have to implement more skills development, and for that we probably need some overseas coaching staff. No point in just implementing more effective game tactics with our current skills sets of our players. I think our player skills needs a lot of attention to gradually improve and evolve into a more intelligent style of play. We just seem to ruin most of our line breaks and turn over possession due to lack of skills once we are in try scoring positions. This is where we need the development of better option taking through improved awareness of open space and play direction. We simply do not distribute the ball to someone in a better position at the right moment. This seems second nature to the All Blacks and we need to identify why that is and implement the answer in our training.

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