Ex-Boks Coach Backs Wallabies
Former South Africa supercoach Jack White may have lead the Springboks to their 2004 Tri Nations title and 2007 Rugby World Cup victory, but he is tipping the Australian Wallabies to win this year’s Tri Nations tournament.
Australia and South Africa face off in Saturday’s opening Tri Nations clash in Sydney, and after studying the 2011 Tri Nations teams White believes the Wallabies look the stronger, more prepared outfit.
White isn’t just tipping the Aussies in the opening, but believes the 2011 Tri Nations Series is theirs to win, the Springboks unable to rise to the top having had minimal time to prepare.
It is an under-strength Springbok squad that will take the Wallabies on Saturday night, many of the club’s big name players remaining at home including Jean de Villiers, the versatile Jaque Fourie, ace scrum half Fourie du Preez, veteran lock Victor Matfield, flanker Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha.
Coach Peter de Villiers has come under fire for his decision to leave out these first string stars, some of which are out through injury, leaving fringe players to take on a top-side Wallabies squad.
“This team has never played together, their combinations, defence and attack are all untested,” White said of the Springboks.
“These guys wouldn’t have known they were going to be a major part of the Tri Nations and they haven’t played for a month so I doubt they’ve been pushing themselves hard.”
South African fly-half Morne Steyn, however, believed that the squad will have no trouble working together and gelling on the field.
“The young guys are fitting in nicely and the senior guys have made it easy for them,” the 25-Test capped Steyn said.
White remained adamant that the Australian squad presented the most danger.
“The Wallabies are the best-placed team because you look now and they’re going to know who their full-strength team is before the World Cup comes,” he said.
“They tried their second team and it didn’t work.”
The ‘second-team’ White referred to was the Australian squad minus many of its stars that went down in a massive upset to Samoa last weekend, coach Robbie Deans having made the decision to rest the likes of Quade Cooper, James Horwill, Will Genia and David Pocock.
It was an embarrassing result for the Wallabies and the first time Samoa had them beaten in a test, and would have been tough going for the club’s first string players forced to watch from the sidelines.
This grounding loss, however, will actually work to boost Australia according to White who said Deans knows which of his players it takes to win games now.
“For Robbie Deans, the selection process will be much easier now,” White said.
“There won’t be too many players wanting to discuss about why they are not getting an opportunity to play more consistently for the Wallabies.”
“The challenge for Australia is, are they going to have their players fit and healthy for the whole campaign,” White asked.
“Because if there’s no doubt when they have their best team and they’re fit, they can beat anybody.”
The plan in place for the Springboks is for its lesser-known players to be able to make their mark in South Africa’s opening two Tri-Nations games, firstly against Australia and then when they play defending champions New Zealand in Wellington on July 30, and work towards a spot on the nation’s Rugby World Cup squad.
After that, de Villiers will bring back his stars for the closing two games in August.
While seemingly a risky play especially as there will be no friendly Tests for South Africa ahead of the World Cup this year, de Villiers has backed his decision.
“South Africa’s challenge is, are they going to get enough momentum form this campaign by playing their second-stringers in the first two games and then their main team in the last two games,” White said.
“The secret is the Tri Nations … when the last whistle goes before the World Cup you will be able to tell by the team’s body language.”
Despite the critique from White, the Springboks are remaining positive but know it will be a much-improved Wallabies team they play on Saturday night.
“We’ve got a young and exciting squad here, so hopefully we can go well,” scrum-half Ruan Pienaar said.
“They’ve (the Wallabies have) got a lot of experience stepping in this week.
“They are a quality outfit and will definitely be a different team come this Saturday.”
Steyn agreed, admitting the inclusion of the Reds Super Rugby Grand Final winning players would make for a hard game on Saturday.
“Australia has got a different team, they will be up for it,” he said.
“A lot of the Reds players are coming in and they just won the Super 15 final so I think it’s going to be a tough one.”
The Springboks have won just two of the past 12 Tests against the Wallabies played in Australia, both of which were in Perth, and will be out to break a four-loss streak at ANZ Stadium.