Congrats, Bokke! On Saturday you made us all proud. You will go down in history as one of the greatest teams in rugby history, not just because you won, but also because you came through against all the odds. Looking back to the 2003 World Cup, Springbok rugby was a shambles. Working at the event in Australia, I remember how disappointed I was when we lost to England and then exited to the All Blacks in the quarters.
Looking back we realistically never could have won that World Cup. We had a crap coach, a young, inexperienced squad, a loose cannon for a captain, no decent flyhalf to speak of and we had just been through the Geogate and Kamp Staaldraad scandals.
We needed change and we needed it quick. The obvious choice for the next Bok coach was Jake White. The man was well respected, had been successful at almost every level he coached at, and his juniors were coming through into the senior team. I knew he was the man for the job, but my experience as a Bok fan told me that he wouldn’t get it. Somehow we would pick the wrong guy.
When he did get the job, I was perplexed. How did it happen? White turned the Springboks around in a year, winning the Tri-Nations and introducing great new talent such as Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana to the Bok side.
White had a vision, was consistent and moulded this team for success in 2007. We have him to thank for this marvellous victory. However, once again we find ourselves at a crossroads. Who will be the next coach? Will White stay on to coach this team to their true potential in four years’ time?
I think he would be a stupid man indeed if he stayed. You cannot trust South Africa’s rugby administrators as far as you can throw them. No, I think the best thing for White is to move on, having done his country the greatest service in the world. What a shame that we have a coach of his experience and stature and there is no realistic way we can hope to keep him because of a bunch of self-interested rugby administrators.
If we really wanted to get serious about transformation, we would identify the best young black talent in this country ASAP. We would also identify the best black coaches in the country. We would then let White work with these coaches and players, slowly bringing them into Test rugby as opportunities arise, building the players up and developing them like he moulded this side to win the World Cup.
The result would be that come 2011, we would have a much more representative squad and probably a black coach who could succeed White. But, hey, that would take too much forward thinking for our rugby administrators. They will be to busy fighting over why Luke Watson is not in the team. I just plan to enjoy being world champions, because who knows when it could happen again?