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Time to call it quits, Jake

I thought I was going to let my fellow bloggers run with the ball on this great rugby debate, but I just have to claim my pound of flesh. So, here goes!

I think Jake White should do more than pee on the ashtrays on the desks of his bosses (as fellow blogger Chris Moerdyk suggested). He should actually tell them to shove their contract offers up their behinds or stick them up where the sun don’t shine.

Having done that, Jake should pick up that call from the English, the Aussies or the French and take them up on their yet-to-be-drafted job offers.

I tend to compare Jake White’s rugby world to the football world of Jose Mourinho — they are both special to the game. While there is no consensus on whether Mourinho was good for English football, there can be no doubt that Jake is not only great for rugby development, but still has bucketloads more talent to unleash.

Like Mourinho, who made his mark as a fine statistician for Sir Bobby Robson, analysing the opposition and videos, Jake joined the Springboks as a video analyst for the victorious 1995 team. His technical prowess made a mark on then Springbok coach Kitch Christie.

Both men (Jose and Jake_ are now mulling over their careers, and both the football and rugby worlds await their decisions with great anticipation.

You see, our Jake has stomached a lot of bile spewed in his direction by those empty suits at SA Rugby.

He would have to be smoking too much of the green gold from Pondoland if he gets caught in the political euphoria that follows the World Cup glory and he decides to stay in South Africa when the world beckons.

That’s it. Jake has made his mark. The man has proved his worth.

He does not have to sit around here and wait for the politicians and the stooges running SA Rugby to give him four more years of hell.

Countries such as England and France offer a hell of a lot more to a rugby coach and rugby player than the BS these guys deal with in South Africa. Now, more than ever, Jake stands on the brink of history. If he goes to England or France where he will not be trying to manage a PR disaster like the great Luke “Happy Sindane of SA Rugby” Watson debate, he can spend the next four years building — no, fine-tuning — a world-class team that will win the 2011 round in New Zealand.

Put differently, Jake now has an opportunity to prepare himself to become the first coach to win the World Cup twice in a row. The hall of fame beckons, if he plays his cards right.

Jake, you don’t need any crystal-ball gazing to know that the transformation kaka is sure to follow the current basking in glory, and someone heading the Bok camp will be in the firing line.

The honourable members dozing off in Parliament most of the year who are now sending statements congratulating the team are no friends of South African rugby. Call their bluff, broer, and walk. And keep walking.

Rugby-loving compatriots will miss you. But when South African politicians roll out the kaka on the next coach — as they surely will — rugby fans will understand why you turned your back on us. Go, Jake! Don’t mull over this one. The writing is on the wall. Hug the boys. Pat them on the shoulders. But pack and go.

It would break my heart to see you navigate your way through the political meddling that will follow your glory. Imagine four years of hell.

I would hate to see your career end because — like Vusi Pikoli’s — of an “irretrievable breakdown” of some relationship between yourself and your bosses.

Believe me, if you stay, it won’t be long before such a twisted statement reaches my in-tray. Walk away now. Take pictures of the Table Mountain, the Drakensberg and the Big Five and hang them up prominently in your new office in England or France. Visit that sage, Madiba, hug him and wish him well, then go on to live your life.

Poor Jake — he was quoted as saying: “I certainly hope that being able to lift this cup and take it back home can create a scenario that everyone binds together and we start forgetting about counting numbers and colours.”

That’s a pipe dream. Our politicians — still drunk with transformation of the country’s very landscape — are already counting the numbers and colours.

As surely as the night follows day and almost as certain as names of streets, towns, and cities will change, that Springbok barge will be reviewed.

It would take one parliamentary backbencher from the ANC to demand that the Boks have a war cry like the All Blacks and all hell would break loose.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka started it off when she charged; “Niyabesaba na? Hayi asibesabi siyabafuna.”

In true South African style, the war cry would be done in all the 11 official languages and could end up sounding like the remixed Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

All this crap will, of course, fall on the shoulders of Jake White if he were to stay as Bok coach going to 2011.

As long as he is here, he has to explain to the nation why he excluded Watson, and why Africans (Bryan Habana, Ndungane and JP) are only engaged as wings. There are guys like Chilliboy and other black players bubbling under in the Shark tank in Durban. The next coach will face much pressure to put these guys in the team even before their prime.

What happens, for instance, if Chilliboy breaks his neck if he is put in the first team too soon? Such a disaster would not only rob us of a black player, but also of a capable hooker.

Rugby culture is entering black South Africa by diffusion. This is, alas, very slow. But a juniorisation of the first 15 to silence the honourable members in Parliament will not be in the interest of the nation.

Black players must go through the ranks and their progress be monitored so that they can be unleashed as golden finds to the world. Bryan Habana equalled the great Jonah Lomu’s 1999 record of eight tries at a World Cup. He has been the great surprise in this World Cup.

With his performance that has won him the title of world rugby player of the year, Habana no longer carries the weight that comes with being a quota player. He deserves being in that squad and the players regard him as a vital cog in their offence.

The guy tackles like Bakkies Botha, runs like a cheetah on the attack and even plays scrumhalf when the General is in the ruck and generally earns his keep in that team. Why then should others be brought in the team because they are black or because they are black on the inside and white on the outside — all this because their fathers embraced black rugby during apartheid?

On that note, bombarding the Bok team with black players who are not yet ready for that stage could see the current team dismantling. They have enough youthful talent to go on to defend the cup in New Zealand come 2011. But that won’t happen; the players have no choice but to escape the political pressure and play for other clubs in England, Oz and France. There is already a list of South African talent that has gone to other countries of the years. It will only get longer if our politicians continue to meddle in our sport.

While I was in Durban, I had a long chat with the great Andre Joubert, the Rolls Royce, about this and that and the future of rugby greats in South Africa. Remember him walking into Ellis Park for the 1995 cup final with a glove on his hand after he had broken his wrist? In fact, I cannot remember any player who suffered as many career-threatening injuries and remained as consistent as Joubert.

That great number 15 who belongs in the hall of fame told me he is no longer involved in the sport. Too much political meddling makes coaching less attractive. The guy sells copiers and printers at his KwaZulu-Natal Minolta franchise in Springfield, Durban, and plays golf at the Durban Country Club. You could almost say he is sulking after he was dropped from the 1999 World Cup team in favour of Percy Montgomery at full back. I know I am side-tracking, but allow me to remember him in a prominent 1995 poster with Bok wing James Small and scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen. That Huisgenoot poster was a collector’s item.

The great Springbok of the 1995 glory, Os du Randt, is mulling over his retirement from the sport. I am sure he won’t go to coaching or administration. Such talent. Os is as big as it gets. That guy will walk out of the field and straight into the hall of fame as the greatest loosehead prop of all time. Only the gods know what he will do at retirement. Maybe, he could become a commentator like Cobus Wiese or even join Wiese in his coffee-shop franchise.

As for Jake, I trust he loves this country and his departure could disrupt his family life, but his stay in South Africa is guaranteed to be hell indeed.


  • Zukile Majova

    Zukile Majova is Head of News for YFM 99.2. He is a former Mail & Guardian Investigative Reporter. He writes politics for Sowetan Newspaper. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, [email protected], 011 280 0300 and 071 681 0192