Recall overseas Boks – Jake

Jake White

The only way we’re going to be able to keep our best players in South Africa in the future is to pick a Springbok squad in June that’s made up predominantly of players currently based overseas.

I’m not trying to give you a headache with what sounds like a riddle, but this is the reality of the migraine that SA Rugby has got at the moment.

Whenever I’ve been asked, in the years following my time coaching the Boks, about picking overseas-based players, I’ve always been adamantly against it. I haven’t changed my stance.

But the problem is, when you have almost every top player leaving the country, then you get to a tipping point where you have to pick those players.

After the 2011 Rugby World Cup, if we’d stuck to the regulation that, in order to play for South Africa, you have to play your rugby there, I believe that many players wouldn’t have left. But we allowed them to be picked and that made it easy for them to leave.

Jan Serfontein is the latest player to sign up for a move to Europe. In 2012, he was rated as the best in the world in his age group. This is a guy who grew up playing rugby at Grey College, played provincial rugby from young, and aspired every day to be a Springbok. And now, at the age of 24, he’s decided to leave South Africa and go play overseas.

If you consider that in context, we’ve obviously missed something as a rugby nation. But you can’t blame the players because they’re allowed to go play overseas and still play for South Africa at the next World Cup. Serfontein isn’t losing out on anything by going overseas so how can anyone get upset with the guy when he can have his cake and eat it?

And that’s what is sad – as much as we want to say you can’t have your cake and eat it, we’ve created a situation where that’s exactly what our players can do, and we’re now forced to give it to them.

It feels like SA Rugby is in a spiral because we’ve put ourselves in a position where an Overseas SA XV would probably beat the Boks every time, so there’s no way we can afford not to pick the best overseas players now.

That’s one of the things that New Zealand got right, and I’m envious of the way they made the All Blacks jersey priceless.

Do you think they didn’t need Carl Hayman back in 2007 when he moved to Newcastle, or Nick Evans, when the All Blacks lost a number of flyhalves leading up to the 2011 World Cup final? But the reality was that they made their rules about eligibility and they were strict on it.

Likewise, the Bok jersey should be worth a lot more than any money you get overseas; playing for your country should be priceless. The jersey must mean something and the only way to get that value back is to win.

Last year, we lost eight out of 12 Tests which means it’s conceivable that there are now guys who have played Test rugby for South Africa and have never won.

Do you think any player wants to stay involved with a team when they’re not winning? That’s not the nature of sport or sportsmen.

So the only way to fix that is to win. To do that, you have to pick the best players, and most of our best players are based overseas.

Unless you start winning, and make people feel special about wearing that Bok jersey, and make people feel good about watching them play, and make sponsors feel good about being associated with that brand, you’re never going to have the leverage to keep your best players in the country.

That famous photograph of Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela holding the Webb Ellis Cup together is such a compelling image because the Boks won the 1995 World Cup.

If they were standing there with runners-up medals, most supporters probably wouldn’t remember the picture.

When that winning feeling comes back, and everyone feels like this is a special group again, then guys will want to stay in that group. That’s how you create the priceless jersey.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Mooti

    If we carry on picking overseas players, many more will leave and it will be almost impossible to reverse to only select local players again. With the best SA players overseas, our local market (Super rugby) becomes less attractive and the downward spiral of trying to compete financially continues.
    SARU either needs to enforce a strict rule of no overseas payers (like the AB’s, which Jake seems to think is best) and put up with losing for a while, or we select any players from anywhere forever.

    • Hendrik

      Well the local provincial players are not cutting the line they are simply not good enough look at last year mostly Lions in the side and the coach played players out of position and the experience showed our poor performance overseas players that played more then 50 tests should be available to play for the Springboks no Doubt

  • Che

    Okay Jake, put pen to paper and lets see the team.

  • anthony

    Not if they coached by you Jake. The only thing they may win is a kicking competition. Local players good enough but very poorly coached. Two coaches in SA understand the ball in hand approach, Johan and Davids.

    • KDP

      funny thing Anthony, all the teams above us in rankings have a better kicking game.

    • Frankie Knuckles

      And yet he won a world cup and a Tri- nations.

  • Curren

    No point in saying we are trying to strengthen local competitions . In the same breath selecting overseas players . We should either be enforcing a strict 50 cap limit like Australia or should adapt NZ policy. SA Rugby must make sure talented youngsters are identified and developed/paid . Losing Stander ( Double Baby Boks ) type talents should cost someone in contracts and management his job.

    • OldGitEd

      Absolutely correct. All of what you said!

  • Andre Rabie

    I personally think they should consider picking players who are based overseas. The way I see it is that the Springbok jersey comes first, doesn’t matter where he plays his rugby. If a player is a good enough to play for the Boks, regardless of which club he plays for, he should be considered for the team. Often players return from overseas with a lot more or different experience from before. Isn’t it a case of winning, no matter what it takes?

  • Vundu

    Problem is that Jake will pick players from the 2007 squad.

    He just doesn’t get it. The dude is disconnected from reality. One moment he argues we should follow the Kiwi model, and the next moment we’re supposed to play Serfontein who hasn’t impressed at senior level at all?

    Jakes delusion is like many of his ilk. South Africa requires professionally run franchises (limited to four) that are fed by 14 efficiently run feeder unions. There should be an age cap on provincial players (at Union/Currie Cup level) and I would say only 5 players per match day squad over 26 years old. If you are 26 and cannot get into a higher paying professional franchise, take a senior role in a team or find a gig overseas, perhaps it’s time to change your career. As a Stormers supporter I get frustrated seeing a few old donkeys on the pitch who are standing in the way of blooding young talent.

    Jake White lives his donkeys, his has beens, his booze hounds. He is an archaic dinosaur, but I suppose he is given a platform to be provocative, right?

    • OldGitEd

      Vundu, you started so well with para1 &2. Then para 3 derailed your good work. You pick the best. End of. Up the tempo, remove crash ball mentality, pick players that bring skills, energy, speed of thinking and execution and act as an catalyst to the team -probably a 5 year plan to create these in the first place. See what NZ does when they select for this years 4 nations and Lions.

    • Haruda

      sorry but every world cup was won by the oldest team.
      problem we is:
      we are losing schoolboys so we see the wrong players on tv.
      and on top of that when we do play old players we are playing the wrong ones.
      We should just choose the best players no matter what age they are – even if a guy is 50 or 40 – if he reallt is the best then we must chose him.
      and instead of having this “great building master plan” – we should take it game by game and try to be number 1 every year instead of “judge me on the world cup”.

      no one wants to lose for 4 years just so that a bunch of young guys can be older and maybe win a world cup.

      and then?
      then we have to start all over again – that is bullshit.

      we need to be the best and win every game every time.

      rather have a “choker” tag like the all blacks but at least be number 1 team every year.

      age should be irrelevant.
      same with color.
      there must be no quota system and no selection rules.

      just best man for the job point end of story.

      and maybe play springbok trials and play 10 springbok trial games – and let the public see on live tv who is the best.

      and keep our best schoolboys here.

      curry cup and super rugby is our 3rd and 4th best choice players.

      never mind losing senior players.

  • Mike Norman

    Lets be honest…Jake’s world cup success was on the back of an extremely astute coach in the form of Eddie Jones, as well as a settled team who, for the most part, had been together for some time….however, aside from the fact that Coetzee should not be coaching the Boks under any circumstances….he never one any silver-wear for the Stormers….what makes anyone think he has what it takes for the Boks??? More to the point, whatever happened to the successful policy of Bok camps….a North vs South trial, a shadow Bok team which played other Provinces or even Namibia in order to finalise the selection of the ideal team and give them a run against opposition….sorry chaps…the process of selecting a Bok team has gone to hell. Has everyone forgotten how the All Blacks were taken out of the Super Rugby mix to prepare for the World Cup….something Jake did before his success as well? Why should this policy not be applied to some extent every year…?

    • Ike

      And Jake won silverware before being appointed Bok coach?

  • Byron

    Jake pls take a seat pal… players inside SA boundaries only.back the youngsters n build for 2019….shld win world cup on home soil in 2023 with our young team starting now!

    • Haruda

      lol. no man seriously you are wrong.
      see that is the problem with your way of thinking.
      what would you rather be:
      1) lose every year with a bunch of useless no heart youngster growing up with no respect just to wait till they are old enough after 4-5 years of losing so we may or may not win a world cup?
      2) just choose the best players no matter how old they are and take it game by game. if an old guy retires, well then just replace him with second best. it is much better to be number 1 in the world every year and choke in a world cup like new zealand – than losing the whole time just to win a world cup and then lose another 4 years because we are “building” again.
      so sick of that word “building” bla bla bla.
      we never build and new zealand never builds. in the old days we where just good always and new zealand is always good.
      screw age – just choose the best player even if he is 100 years old. point end of story.
      losing sucks!!!!

  • Thozamile

    It will be best to select players with good perfomance there are so many talented local plyrs in SA they need to be groomed!

  • Nopolitics

    Of course he’s right. The Springbok brand has been devalued by the soul destroying effect of selecting incompetent Quotas, very incompetent management and a coach who has totally lost the change room – none of the players either respect him or have confidence in his ability.
    The rot must be stopped by whatever means, even by wholesale selection of foreign based players. Once we’re up there again and are gradually bringing in locally based players, then limiting foreign based players might become a sustainable policy.
    As to the argument re foreign based vs local Springboks, i have to agree that a locally based team wouldn’t stand a chance. I’d love to see such a game.

  • Albert Hoffman

    Oh shut up Jake, just more dribble from a boring coach with tactics stuck in the 1980’s, just like AC. PS Joke White, any team in the world would beat the boks with Allister Coetzee as coach!

  • Barry Smith

    One only needs to look at Banana to realise that this does not work. There simply is not enough time to work with overseas based players. Nor is there time for conditioning team building and so on. But regardless, no strategy has any hope unless we have component coaches management and a lack of racial intervention!

  • Mbeko Ngondzi

    The worst was the new policy of the players to first have 30 caps for the Bokke ( if in Europe, then after the 30 – he can be selected for the team ). Indeed our best players are overseas, Kolbe and Serfontein have packed , end of super rugby, they gone. Warren Whitely is also on the cards for an overseas move — however, we do have good talent locally but — the best of our boys are overseas . I do get Jakes point .

  • BG

    We may also consider that some of the younger players are be prepared to go overseas, earn way more money, live in safety, build a reputation and be considered for selection of a foreign team after meeting residency requirements. The Bok jersey just isn’t valuable enough to compete with that.

    Let’s hope Etzebeth doesn’t leave, that may open the floodgates.

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