France are predictable – Jake

Jake White

There are certain, well-worn phrases you hear in rugby, such as: “the All Blacks run from everywhere.” And then you find out that New Zealand kick more than most teams. How does a team that kicks more than most become known as a running team? It’s the same with French rugby.

The catchphrase is, “the French are just so unpredictable, if they arrive in the right frame of mind, on the day, they can beat anyone.”

There’s no such thing as unpredictable with today’s analysis systems. You can identify and examine weaknesses in every team and player, so how can they be unpredictable? They’re only unpredictable if you haven’t done your homework on them.

In 2002, Brent Russell started a Test match against Australia at Ellis Park because Andre Pretorius had to pull out overnight. They put him in at 10 and he had a phenomenal game, because the Wallabies didn’t expect him to start, so they didn’t do any analysis on him.

That shows the power of analysis, it allows you to really preempt things, tactically. But it doesn’t give you the important details about the human factor, such as personality traits, mindsets or a player’s mentality on tour, and you won’t know that unless you’ve coached against your opponents, or spoken to someone who has.

Any coach who has spent some time in France can tell you what to expect from the French this week.

In fact, I can tell you the team that’s probably going to play the first Test. The Toulouse flyhalf, Jean Marc Doussain will run out at 10. He is not a reliable goal-kicker which means Racing scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud must play. The Bordeaux scrumhalf, Baptise Serin will probably have to back up at 10.

The French captain, Guilhem Guirado can’t play because he played for Toulon in the Top 14 final on Sunday. That means the hooker will have to be 21-year-old Camille Chat. He really struggles in the lineout, and with Yoann Maestri and Julian Le Devedec (who is quite short compared to the locks we have) in the second row, you can almost predict where their strengths and weaknesses will be.

All those Clermont and Toulon players from the final will be fresh for the second Test, which is in Durban, at sea level. So France will be better in the second Test.

Louis Picamoles will run over the top of you if you don’t grab his legs. Fullback Brice Dulin will counter-attack every time you kick poorly. France will take quick taps. Winger Yoann Huget will take inside balls off the flyhalf, that you can count on. Virimi Vakatawa likes to offload; he’s a Fijian outside back that knows how to finish.

That’s not unpredictable, you can take that to the bank. So why do we say we don’t know what to expect? The only reason is because we haven’t asked anybody.

That’s what top sides do. Australia played France in France last year, and they used every resource they could to find out what they could about the French, including convening with several of the Australian coaches in France for a three-day workshop to get insight.

I know that Canal+, France’s equivalent of Supersport, have spent the past six weeks trying to find out which France-based SA players were going to be chosen for the Boks. The French clubs will also have reported which SA players have been requested, all of which helps the national coach, Guy Noves, get an understanding about the makeup of the Springbok team. And yet, in South Africa, we don’t do the same.

We’ve got Pieter de Villiers who played 68 Tests for France, Nick Mallett who coached Stade Francais for three seasons, and I’ve just come back from coaching Montpellier in the Top 14. Absolutely no-one has asked me any questions about the French and I’m pretty sure Pieter and Nick haven’t been contacted either.

If that’s the case, then the Springboks probably won’t know all the French players’ names and they should expect France to be unpredictable. And if you’re only relying on Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn for your feedback, then you haven’t used all your resources.

Surely, if you really want to win, you look under every rock?

Omar Mouneimne is a South African coach who just did the defence for Stade Francais where you’d need to know how the French like to attack, CJ van der Linde is also back in South Africa after working as Montpellier’s scrum coach in France, and Shaun Sowerby is now a Top 14 forwards coach who made more than 100 appearances at Toulouse under Noves.

We miss a trick there and I don’t think the All Blacks would let that opportunity slip through their fingers.

In 2007, leading up to the World Cup, England came and played two Tests in South Africa. I studied their weekly schedule to see how they prepare and got Supersport to put an extra camera and mic on their lineout caller during the Tests, because the reality was that I knew they wouldn’t change their lineout calling process during the next three months leading up to the World Cup.

Those were the lengths that we went to. I find it strange that we’re going to war with France, and people are going in blindly.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Sharky

    Bloomin heck!! I’m surprised that AC hasn’t spoken to Jake considering that they’ve coached together and apparently have a good relationship. But I’m even more surprised that Jake decided to pen this article rather than picked up the phone and offered his serviced to AC.

    • Albert Bouwer

      If you’re good at something, never do it for free.

      • Sharky

        If you’re good at something, contact prospective employers to offer your services. Don’t trash them in the media!

        • Nopolitics

          That’s hardly trashing AC. It’s just stating what we all know – that AC is too stubborn/naive/incompetent to know any better.

  • Jan van der Merwe

    That’s telling it as it is, Jake .. our present guy’s record speaks for itself, doesn’t it!

  • Barry

    I brought Eddy Jones in to win the world cup for us in 2007.

  • Jay

    Jake is obviously concerned with what he is seeing coming from SA rugby and he is rightfully sharing his concerns.
    I’m gobsmacked if all they are doing is relying on their plans with Brendan Venter and Franco, not to take anything away from the two of them, SA Rugby are just falling miles behind in so many departments..

  • Flynn

    Wow Jake White is amazing.

  • stormramp

    I want to see AC fall

  • Blou

    Who is Jake White again???

  • Gary

    We are so used to mediocrity that we can’t stand to see someone achieve success. We should still have Jake as coach, he could have groomed the other coaches, and we had every reason to keep him on. The All Blacks had ever reason to get rid of Henry etc, but they bought into continuity and 2 world cups later look where they are. We had a golden opp to really become the dominant team of the world, but we dropped the ball. I am very tired of SA rugby, if they lose against the French then Jurrie and the top brass all need to go…

  • Hein

    Jake really left his remarks on our guys’ perceived unpreparedness to the very last minute!

  • James

    Jake White talks a good fight but the best thing he ever did was bring in the master tactician Eddie Jones into the Springbok camp. He doesn’t appear to be the most popular character either, he took a job with the Sharks then abandoned them….seems to be a bit mercenary.

  • George

    We are the only country in the world to win the rugby world cup and then fire the coach
    If he had been a New Zealander they would have built a monument to him;
    If he had been British he would have been Knighted.But we fire Jake White.

  • Quintin Chellew

    Jake was not “Blou ” but he had the ability to unite the different teams and unions even if it be by buying in a neutral coach. He did not see unions style of play but he used the strengths of players he had chosen .
    Jake was a tactician in the employ of SARU and am not surprised that he had a plan or sussed out how to win the WC, that plan would have included Eddy Jones and his ” eye specialist ” to work on the guys reaction times , which worked , he won what he had set out to do and that is more than what we have accomplished since.

    It gave me a lot of pleasure and united this nation which nothing else has since , that we need this upliftment in our lives is obvious , whether it be rugby ,soccer or netball we need something positive as athletics has done as well , well done you guys stop tearing us down we are the pawns in this game.

  • Wolli

    Jake is a master tactician and a brilliant leader of men. Even the meddling politicians and inept administrators could not prevent him from lifting a WC trophy. He is a professional who has my utmost respect. A true leader is not scared to admit weakness and employ the best to solve a problem. Hiring Eddie Jones in 2007 was a prime example of this. A weak leader is too proud to ask for help as in AC. His lack of preparation and unwillingness to ask for help is testament to this. His dismal track record at international and club level should not be surprising to anyone.

  • Gerald

    The main concern is that Jake is still eyeing a national coaching job, he didn’t get one, and now he remains to be a bit like a petulant child. As much as we need a winning coach, we also need to steer away from arrogance and a “mister know it all”.

  • George

    Jake White is The Best smilie Polo coetzee is going to cry stop pick sokker players pick rugby players then we will win

  • Nic

    How does Jake know who the current coaches have spoken to? Smacks a bit of sour grapes to me>

  • christopher mc cumskey

    Jake White looks after Jake White. Is as simple as that.

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