Kolbe shows Euro shortcut to Boks – Jake

Jake White

The move to cut the pool of South Africa’s professional players in half is a big crossroads for our rugby. Some people are reading it as a positive, but if the 450 players we want to keep are the ones that leave, then we’ll be in an even deeper hole than we are now.

If you’re building a pyramid, the wider the base, the higher the peak. A big school of 1000 boys produces more quality players than a school of 450 boys. So, if you want your national rugby team to be strong, then the more players you have, the better. If we expose fewer players to professional rugby, how can we expect to compete against the best?

Firing half of our players does have some merit because of financial considerations, but only if you’re going to keep the best players.

If it’s going to mean better coaching, control and management of individuals, and fewer players sharing a bigger portion of the money, then it will have been worthwhile. But if it’s not those things, then having fewer players will be detrimental because we’ll be where we are now with less talent to choose from.

It’s such a fine line and the really important question is, who is going to decide which 450 players stay? It’s not as simple as just cutting guys.

What happens if our five best players go? And why wouldn’t they – the Bok coach just picked five players who went overseas and played better rugby, and not one of them says they’re not enjoying it over there?

The law of averages tells me that the 100s of players who choose to leave are going to be better off than those who stay.

I’m not surprised that Cheslin Kolbe has been a hit in Europe and has now been called up. He left for France because he wasn’t in the Bok plans, and now he’s about to make his Test debut. That tells every other guy in South Africa that if you want to be a Bok it’s not a bad idea to go play somewhere else.

There’s enough evidence to prove that pathway works. CJ Stander left the Bulls and he’s now a British Lion. John Allan’s nephew, Tommaso Allan has played 40 Tests for Italy. Bishops old boy Stuart Abbott is an MBE who won a gold medal at the 2003 Rugby World Cup for England.

And the next exodus of SA players will be going to coaches that want to pick them, rugby programs that make them better players and they will perform well, as South Africans have a reputation for doing all over the world. Unless you can offer those benefits in SA, we’re going to be worse off with fewer players.

I was an assistant to Harry Viljoen when he was the Bok coach between 2000 and 2002 and I learnt a lot from a coach who was way ahead of his time in terms of professionalism and innovation.

In his first Test, the Boks played Argentina at the River Plate Stadium. He picked Percy Montgomery at 10 and told him he wasn’t allowed to kick the ball. The Boks played for 73 minutes before kicking the ball for the first time, and we won 37-33.

At that time, he was the national coach and it didn’t matter whether anyone disagreed with his vision for the Boks.

Two years later, in one of his last Tests in charge, he picked Louis Koen and Braam van Straaten at 10 and 12 and they were told to kick the hell out of the ball. That shows how things can change – we went from not kicking to starting two guys next to each other who specialised in kicking the ball miles.

And that’s why having a full-time director of rugby is so important. The person in that job should have a clear picture of where he wants South African rugby to go and what kind of players are needed to get us there.

If we’d cut our players in 2000, Harry would have said that the 450 players who stay must be able to catch and pass, and run from everywhere. Two years later he would have wanted to sign players who could kick with both feet.

The director of rugby role is a much more important job than people think, perhaps now more than ever. He should be actively involved in the game on the ground, but also have a committee of people that are paid to challenge the way we think about the game and have a vision for where the game is going.

If your U20s scrape home against Georgia, your Sevens side is inconsistent and your senior side has a 50-percent win record, then it’s quite obvious that none of those things are in place at the moment. And that’s a problem because the only way to turn the ship around is for someone to be accountable for a plan that gets us back to the top of World Rugby.

You need to know where you want to end up and then work backwards from there, but I’m not sure that anyone in SA knows what the end goal looks like.

We have to be genuine about what we want from our rugby. If we really want to be the best again, then every difficult decision can be answered with one simple question: will this help us become world champions?

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Herman Schroder?

    Jake no mention of transformation ? Slick footwork there old chap. So if 450 players are to be handpicked to fit the Director of Rugby’s vision for SA rugby then it goes without saying that a maximum of 225 would be ‘white’ and 225 ‘black’, that is if Rassie want’s to stick with the mandate spelled out to him by the ruling ‘elite’.

    Of course their could also be 300 ‘black’ players that could be picked ON MERIT but what if it’s the other way around ? So in effect the ‘whitey’ will now have only a 25% chance ( at best ) of going through despite still representing the bulk of the rugby players at the top levels of the game at this stage.

    And then who’s to say that after the WC that the percentage wont be increased again until it reaches 92% ‘black / coloured’ participation to fit the national population demographic. Oh boy what deep graves we dig for ourselves in order to pander to the whims of our ruling party. Only one loser here, SA rugby while World Rugby just quietly goes about it’s business and does nothing.

    • Theuns Jacobs

      Herman, you hit the nail on the head. My thoughts exactly when I read this article. Just another way for the minister of sport to throw his weight around, and enforce the quota rule when it comes to contracts. I foresee that this is the last world cup that the national team will qualify. The only way we will participate in a world cup is if we host it…ala Bafana bafana… cheers springbok rugby..!!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Thanks Theuns, yes sad days indeed. A crippled ruling party dictating to a totally inept SARU and SA rugby ranked 7th in the world with no relief in site. Suddenly playing Tiddlywinks seems like a good way to spend your weekend. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      On this thing we are in total agreement,-the sad thing is that a turkey never votes for Thanksgiving, so the “beneficiaries” of these policies, WHO SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED that a quarter of a century after they were given a perfectly functioning industrialized first world country STILL require a hand-up and will perpetuate this system until rugby resembles everything else.

      I suspect I’ll be banned from here pretty soon now because these are not things we are allowed to say or talk about.

    • Wesley

      Oh boy here we go. Quota quota quota. Please, if anybody can PLEASE just tell us the names of the players they deem proper “quota” and who in the line-up is to replace that player. I’m sure you can dig up the DROVES of white players being disadvantaged at this moment in time. This up in the air “ruling elite” talk means nothing other than referencing some document set up by the sports and recreation portfolio that is not being implemented at all, or well not at the value these on the comment sections will make you believe. If they have PROOF of the contrary I state here, please come forward. Perhaps it is time for a good cut in professional players (black and white), AND administrators salaries for sure, or am I being foolish?.

      • Zipdiddly

        I am with you on the quote schtik.. It is a lot of bull, however, it is a label created by the powers that be. So the poor POC that is world class will have the unfortunate label of quota. This is a sad state, just like I am considered a racist for being afrikaans and white. It is crap but there it is..

      • SweetAz

        You are being foolish. You don’t seem to get it,- Here is another video for you with statistics demonstrating how the quota system negatively influences our rugby –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTA5eMCKBMo
        Now I know this is a waste of time but I’m stubborn.
        I stopped playing cricket during isolation simply because there was no point, I knew there wasn’t a future in it. WHITE BOYS who have to have 80% to get into a university course while the black boys only need 60% and half the spots in the team are reserved for them know this feeling. Its a waste of time so rather stop playing rugby or go overseas.

        • Wesley

          Name the names Sweet. Put it out there. These videos are of somebody elses opinion. Anybody that uses that excuse to leave has either self belief problems or cant hack it in the first place in my opinion.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Wesley, sheer force of numbers if left to natural progression will eventually balance the scales anyway so punitive social engineering is unwarranted in the short term. The point I made originally is that we are repeating the ‘sins’ of the past by legislating advantage based on skin colour. That concept is abhorred across the world and has no place in a legitimate democracy where the Constitution is paramount.

            The Constitution stipulates we are all equal irrespective of race, colour or creed. The cry of freedom for all was based on that principle. If the colour of a man’s skin, despite the fact that he is outnumbered 9 to 1, is used to decide his future opportunities then it can’t be morally right can it ? It actually breaks down the social fabric and causes animosity between race groups. Aren’t those the very factors we put behind us when peace finally came to this land ? Mandela would never have tolerated what is going on in SA today believe me. Cheers.

          • SweetAz

            Like I said, its a waste of time, -willful ignorance is apparently a prime Dunning/Kruger indicator. It’s not only indicative of a built-in inability to question, its a psychological predilection for failure avoidance. I don’t have the time or desire to go trawling the internet to satisfy an internet stoush, those videos are NOT opinion, the guy backs them up with actual statistics who all have actual names behind the numbers.
            How many Kevin Pietersen’s do you think are amongst that 2007 Grey College team who never kicked on????—And that’s just one school.
            Its not about self-belief mate,—its simple maths,—-15 places in a team, 7 available spots, 70 white school players vs 7 non NON-whites.
            I’m guessing Statistics is not part of the SA School curriculum.

          • Barry Smith

            Wesley, if you are so confident of the form of so called Quota players, then surely you would be first in line to have it abolished? Racial selection simply has no future and as Mark Alexander pointed out, those that support it, carry racial baggage. The rest of us see players not colours!

  • Emanuele Lemme

    With the current quota plans in place it will be impossible to determine who the best” half” of our players is. Quotas, while not the main reason for our rugby demise, is definitely having a negative impact on the SA Rugby culture and ultimately performance. What is the criteria for choosing one player over another has always been the ultimate sporting question when it comes to team sports. It will always cause debate, conflict and ultimately recrimination. No matter what the sport. In SA this is taken to a new level as the entire selection process is called into question from the start. Half the Boks must be black in the upcoming WC. So clearly it is not a merit selection if we need quotas to pick those black players? Now I hear some people say they would not be quota players but would be chosen on merit. Then why do we need quotas? Oh of course I hear some say that were it not for quotas black players would not be picked due to racism. Possibly yes maybe don’t really know. However I would take a scenario where the quotas are abolished and we sit with a problem of a lily white team and what we are going to do about rather than have a situation where players are selected based on skin color and we delude ourselves into thinking Rugby is transformed and development is taking place. At the end of the day we need to reach a scenario where merit selection(and yes it will always be subjective) is the only criteria.

    • Herman Schroder?

      I agree. Originally there was a case to be made for leveling the playing fields where the hierarchy of SA rugby still rested with the ‘white’ minority. Administrators and coaches were chosen who still had the ‘white is best’ mindset and it was a problem. But we have moved on since then and most of those supposedly biased individuals have been sent packing. The new order coming through are in the main not ‘colour’ conscience.

      But now we seem fit to legislate who should be picked and when based on the colour of a man’s skin. Will there not be bias now for ‘black’ coaches to favour their black players or are they above all that ? All these questions are raised because a formula has been given to SA rugby to apply to selections which distort the playing fields and creates animosity among races who in the main are living side by side in peace. But when have ( corrupt ) politicians ever had the nous to put self interest before progress anyway. Cheers.

  • Matt

    A large base can be as much of an achilles heel as it can be a strong foundation. You make the foundation too wide in relation to the amount of steps you’ve got to go up, i.e the natural progression from grassroots to national team, and you end up with a flooded player pool which dilutes your talent as you just don’t have enough strength vs strength where is matters most to get the real quality needed at the top, especially when the flooding of the player pool happens at the Franchise lvl, where we’ve gotten to see first hand the negative impact on having to many top flight teams causing a situation where our top talent is spread too thin.

    The ‘base’ of the pyramid is question is not the professional players. Its proper grassroots. And its this constant misappropriation that is killing the nations competitiveness internationally. The professional ‘step in the ladder’ is being spread too thin with too much weight placed on it, with not nearly enough attention, energy or resources being placed in the very importants steps that come before it.

  • John Comyn

    Surely the players that leave get replaced by others looking for a contract at franchise level! Yes it could well be the top 5 players leaving but we need to resign ourselves to the fact that we have to choose from the overseas pool as well. As it is now. Jake is responsible for contracting a huge amount of SA players to play in France and Japan and clearly has no allegiance to SA Rugby.

  • Lance Klein

    1. Rassie to be director of Rugby and develop SA Rugby blueprint
    2. Jake white to be coach of the Springboks
    3. Succession planning for Deon Davids and Mzwandile Stick
    3. Draft system to be implemented
    4. Decrease player pool
    5. Incentive’s for players to return to SA

    • BigLaboosh

      I’m not 100% sure I agree with points #2 and #3 in terms of the personnel mentioned, but for the rest of them i think you have got it spot on.
      I think the biggest and most positive impact for our player pool would be a draft system, something closely mirroring the system used by the NHL. They do a great job of spreading the talent pool and making sure young players go through the ranks while the top guys earn top dollar.

  • Nick.

    Wesley, don’t even waste your time mate. The bigger picture is beyond these types.

    I just wish these whiners about transformation were so courageous and outspoken during the old days of injustice, racism and brutality. The country could have really used their outspoken bravery and moral clarity then.
    Historical amnesia I call it.

    • Herman Schroder?

      A sloppy comment there Nick. How do you know that the contributors on this site didn’t fight side by side with the black folk ? Not sure of your age but I assume that if you have a history as an activist in those troublesome years you could kindly inform us of your contribution. Taking the moral high ground requires proof that you have indeed earned it.

      And talking about the ‘bigger picture’ and setting rugby aside for a moment, what is your take on the call for ‘ Confiscation of Property ( not only land ) without Compensation. You should have plenty of contacts in the inner circle if you were involved in the struggle after all, so you should be able to enlighten us. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      Gee,————your hypocrisy is breathtaking, it must be hard getting through the door with that chip on your shoulder. There are NOW more racist laws on the books than what there were during apartheid. There have been more people killed in this country since the END of apartheid than in all the time it existed. I don’t know how YOU define brutality but I LIVED in apartheid and NOBODY went into people’s homes brutalizing them with boiling oil, drilling holes in their feet, raping babies and mothers.–Watch this video and get a grip—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_bDc7FfItk
      So the FACTS are the ANC has been the cause of MORE racism and Brutality than any government before it.

      I WISH YOU WHINERS WOULD BE MORE OUTSPOKEN ABOUT IT,—-instead of whining because you aren’t good enough to a play in a rugby team unless somebody reserves a spot for you. I would be too embarrassed to play in a system that had quota’s, I would take it as an insult,—you lot think its great. That tells me all I need to know about your mindset

      • Wesley

        Haha Nick, you are actually right…. Talking about chips on the shoulder, but not realizing the large one on his…. Funny how people feel disrespected if they cant disrespect you. Calling me willfully ignorant when i dont share your belief Sweet? Thats not ignorance mate. I read all the opposing sides and balance my opinion. Call me “draadsitter” all you want… If you want to side only with one side thats your thing, but theres a word for that… Confirmation bias.

  • Nick

    Big ‘pyramids’ are lekker things when you can afford them.

  • Nick

    The point matt makes about the true base of the pyramid not being professional is spot on. This pyramid analogy jake makes can only refer to the professional arm of the game that sits top heavy and unbalanced on the top of the true foundation of the game which is amateur.

  • Barry Smith

    To put this in perspective New Zealand have 28 000 adult players South Africa 122 00, England 131 000.
    I think this suggest that we are a bit heavy by comparison, but on the other end of things we do not want to eject up coming talent!
    The answer is somewhere in the middle!

    • SweetAz

      NZ has a population of 4.5 million,—South Africa has a population more than 10 times that size so we should have about 300 000 in comparison to NZ……. And if black people liked and played rugby the same way white people did that is what our pool would be. I don’t know what the breakdown is these days but I would love to see what the ratio is black/white amongst adult rugby players. That might be a better way of judging whether people actually WANT to play rugby before we reserve 50% of spots for them. You may find a better way to “transform” rugby is to take the ACTUAL ratios of the demographics of PLAYING adult players into consideration instead of enforcing the National demographic upon a sport.

      It’s strange how nobody has forced the National Gumboot Dancing team or the Volkspele team or the Jukskei team to be 50% black yet.

  • Dan Theron

    Herman Shroeder is correct. Since the quota system was enforced our rugby went for shit. Just looking at the black players in the national team means zip. White players are leaving the game in droves from primary school level up.
    The AB source players from three other countries and we drive them away. We will NEVER catch up again.

  • Nick

    Very strange indeed sweet!
    Lol. Lots of us ‘lived through apartheid’. Not uncommon actually.
    Your comparisons speak for themselves.

  • IRC

    SA players that go play up north tend to come back better players than when they left. Probably due to the professionalism and coaching, amongst other factors.

    So instead of fighting the exodus – use it to our advantage. Send promising youngsters north for a couple of years BEFORE they can be a Springbok.

    Think about it – they’ll be better coached and turned into high-performing athletes, plus they’ll make enough money to come back and “survive” on their South African wages.

    New Zealand do it with their coaches, why can’t we do it with our players?

  • Wesley

    No willfull ignorance. Funny how that always become the go-to argument for the kinds that would hold up quotas as the prime example of failures in society and sport in this country. If you are not with us, you are against us hey… And statistics may also be used to perpetuate a common held belief that the perveyor of those opinions already have, so as many videos you may hold up as example, there as just as many with opposing views. I would rather make up my own mind and opinion thanks very much. Not tooting my own horn, but possibly a more balanced approach? The same tactic you use is very much the same of the “ruling elite” you vilify here. You are then hence different sides of the same old coin. Hence my question to you…. Name the names. In your own opinion. I wont judge, opinions are to be had. Basic requirement for good debate. And to Barry… I never said im FOR quotas or against abolishing it. They should. No gov should meddle in the sport. But were you one to complain when the previous gov did so? Answer honestly please. And as for these “quota” players, i am of belief, in the current selection of Springboks in all age groups, they are the ones not in the firing line. The ones playing favorite but not performing are what we are to worry about, regardless of colour…

    • SweetAz

      Wesley, my apologies for getting hot under the collar, my people are being murdered daily and here we are talking about rugby…………Its far to late now to go ask for names in the current selection—the DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE. I take that 2007 Grey College Team again as an example,—that team should have produced 10 Springboks currently playing. Most of them aren’t even playing rugby anymore, so to come now and say who is better now is a false equivalence,—its like killing 90% of the competition, whilst letting the mediocre progress and then 10 years later ask but where are all those players I killed 10 years ago.—which is what you are saying.

      • Wesley

        Thanks Sweet, but I never said I’m for any system of discrimination, or quota. BUT it is not our biggest problem, especially at the higher levels. We must stop harping on this as a blanket reason the sport and our teams are faltering. Players, regardless of colour, miss out on higher honors because of ignorance of our admin and structures. I have used Dyantyi as one example, and I guess we can use Stander as another example (too small at the time they said). The one side see only black suffering (Gov), and the other only white suffering (usual Afrikaner types). I am Afrikaner, and sometimes feel ashamed my brothers are so ignorant to the “other side” problems and see only their own. The same conversations i have had with black people, not only buried in their own plight. It is coaches and administrators failing us as supporters of this sport. Gov doesn’t help much, and fanning flames where they are not supposed to, but I truely dont see their “quotas” being implemented brash to all and sundry as some here would like us to believe. I believe cutting of players and administrators, regardless of colour, and looking at performance as a benchmark, is what is best for rugby in this country.

        • SweetAz

          Wesley, I’ve never used it as blanket excuse,–there are many reasons South African Rugby is stuffed, in my opinion, its mainly incompetent and fragmented leadership with a plethora of agendas. In the old days we called it provincialism, –now it has a few added factors only making things worse. It just gets my back up when people refuse to understand that no society in the world has ever been successful when they don’t use merit as the defining criteria for selection, whether that is business or sport. It IS a fact that the quota system has had and will continue to have a negative impact upon rugby. Trying to label people as this side or that side is irrelevant.

          Personally, I refuse to be treated by a black doctor and I pray all the way when I see a black pilot. NOT because I am a racist or hate blacks,— it’s simply that I know the qualifying criteria for them to become doctors and pilots is set much lower, and personally, I only want the doctor/pilot who got as close to 100% as possible when my health and safety are at stake.

          And that, in a nutshell, is why quota’s don’t work,–no matter what you or anyone else claims, for as long as quotas exist, the player himself, his teammates and the fans will always wonder if he was truly the best choice.

          • Wesley

            Sorry Sweet, seems we have hit critical mass of this conversation or debate. Just a thought. All people of this country are to write, pass and qualify the testing criteria to become a professional in their field. Most tertiary institutions use numbers assigned to their students to eliminate bias or other factors that might contribute to unfair gradings. I have gone through the same to qualify in my field. Perhaps there were admittance at entry level into the course that favors certain people, but the ones that cant hack it get eliminated pretty quickly. If you are to refuse service from anybody, i would rather use the qualifying criteria as your point of reference, which is same for everybody regardless of race. So next time you see a doctor, rather refuse service from all of South Africa if that is your opinion. That will possibly save you from being called a racist. Cheers

  • gerhard van tonder gerhard van tonder

    Hi Jake

    We have more adult rugby players as England; with our contracting (recession for two quarters now) economy we can’t afford our pro player pool. Actually I thing our player pool is too big to be managed properly therefore diamonds can slip through. It nearly happened to Aphiwe and Marco.

    I want to see less of the rudderless provincial competitions and more well organized club rugby. Our youngsters must come through a tough club competition. That will help their development and it will be a community based support. A 2nd division club game playing for relegation drawn 10 000 people in George over the weekend. The rugby power base and with that the support base are shifting to communities again like it was in the 70s when Riversdal vs George drawn 20 000 people on a Saturday afternoon for a final. We just need somebody to recognize the times.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Good read, sort out the base and the rest will look after itself. Cheers.

  • Nick.

    Lol Hermie! You cant even read.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Can’t read or you can’t express yourself properly. Please clarify. Cheers.

  • Nick.

    Sure Hermie.

    I will refer your bizarre response to what I wrote further up the page and assume you either cannot read what I wrote or you can, but you simply make things up as you go along.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Again humour me and please clarify in detail, this ‘dance’ cannot continue, people will start talking, lol. Cheers.

  • Nick

    Hermie, you are one solid weirdo.

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