No one can bake the cake like Jake
Jake White is the best motivator in all of rugby. That was the only conclusion we could make as we watched the tears well up in the eyes of Frans Steyn while he accepted his man-of-the-match award on Saturday.
He had just given a remarkable performance in front of one of the most hostile crowds in world rugby and now he was given recognition as the best player on Loftus Versfeld’s famous pitch that day.
You’d have expected him to beam, but instead the 53-cap Springbok was physically struggling not to break out in a full-scale bawl.
“Oom Kobus. I want to speak Afrikaans. I’m a bit emotional,” said the 110kg centre with his bottom lip all but quivering.
He was in no mood for personal celebrations. Disaster had struck. His previously unbeaten Sharks team had just done the unthinkable and lost to a Bulls side they had beaten with a bonus point just the other day.
And it stung.
We can’t say for certain whether tissues were needed in the change-room afterwards, but if so, the coach should have sponsored them. The loss was entirely his fault.
Here’s the thing with Jake White: he is a master motivator, but you never know if it’s his team or the opposition that will end up inspired.
Think back to 2004. White had just won the Tri-Nations with the Springboks and expectations were high on their end-of-year tour. Then the urge to motivate flared up. In a press conference in Dublin he claimed that only three Irish players would make it into his team, and with that he almost single-handedly secured a famous victory for the home side at Lansdowne Road that weekend.
He was at it again last week. The flare-up was just a little more spectacular.
"It’s easy to prepare against the Bulls," said an everything-but-contrite White ahead of his team’s trip to Pretoria.
"You can take a video from last week, the week before, last year, five years ago. They haven’t played differently for 30 years.”
As if writing a pre-match speech for Frans Ludeke he continued: "We know what’s coming: Kicks from 9, kicks from 10, maul, a bit of variation. Then kick from 9, kick from 10, maul.”
That wasn’t it.
What really happened was that White had set up his men to be blindsided. Literally.
It wasn’t only kicks that they ran into at Loftus last Saturday. It was also a blindside flank that could attack space between defending tight-forwards and score. It wasn’t just mauls they were confronted with; it was a blindside wing joining the line at pace to set up the other try.
“It’s easy to prepare against the Bulls.” Of course it is. Anything is easy if you’re doing it wrong.
It can be funny too. Take for example the irony in the fact that White may as well have been describing his own team’s playing style.
“They always play like the Bulls, Naas. It’s a complete misnomer to think that the Sharks play running rugby. They don’t. The Sharks play a very forward-dominated game. They have a kicking scrumhalf, a kicking flyhalf and even a kicking inside centre in Francois Steyn,” said Nick Mallet when the subject came up for discussion in the SuperSport studio after the match.
“It’s a template of Jake White’s coaching that he plays territory and a simple forward-dominated game.”
He also talks a lot, and every so often his words bring tears to the eyes.
But that’s not always a bad thing.
We have no shame in admitting that we almost had to fight back the salty stuff here at the SuperWrap desk too, only in our case it was out of thankfulness.
It’s not that Jake had caused the Sharks to lose and that the SA conference is a whole lot more interesting as a result. It’s not even that his antics last week meant that this Wrap would pretty much write itself.
We were thankful because, as if inspired by a Bee Gees track, he’s brought Steyn alive.
We saw a famously nonchalant character almost brought to tears because of a lost Super Rugby match and it thrilled us to bits.
More importantly, we saw one of the most dangerous weapons in world rugby starting to talk like a match winner again.
“Thank you, Oom Kobus,” the man with cannons hanging from his hips said, “But if I landed those two drops and the kick from the corner we would have won.”
He’ll win plenty still if he couples his talent with that attitude.
Jake White is the best motivator in all of rugby. He proved it by talking its biggest boot back into being a world-beater. He was also generous enough to do the same for the likes of Victor Matfield, Bjorn Basson and Francois Hougaard.
It’s Wednesday again and almost time for the master to speak. We’re hoping for not a single dry eye in the house.
Here are our teams of the week:
Note: our weekly teams are selected on the past weekend's action only, so overall season form is not a factor. Players in teams with a bye are then obviously not considered.
Super XV for week six:
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders), 14. Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs), 13. Junior Rasolea (Force), 12. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs), 11. Robbie Coleman (Brumbies), 10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls), 8. Duane Vermeulen (Stormers), 7. Jacques du Plessis (Bulls), 6. Steven Luatua (Blues), 5. Wilhelm Steenkamp (Force), 4. Sam Wykes (Force), 3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies), 2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1. Tony Woodcock (Blues).
Bok Barometer for week six:
15. Jurgen Visser (Bulls), 14. Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs), 13. Johan Sadie (Cheetahs), 12. Frans Steyn (Sharks), 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls), 10. Jacques-Louis Potgieter (Bulls), 9. Faf de Klerk (Lions), 8. Duane Vermeulen (Stormers), 7. Jacques du Plessis (Bulls), 6. Deon Stegmann (Bulls), 5. Victor Matfield (Bulls), 4. Franco Mostert (Lions), 3. Werner Kruger (Bulls), 2. Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1. Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).
Match of the week:
Referee Stuart Berry again stole all the headlines after Saturday’s clash at Ellis Park, and that is a great pity. The Lions deserve far more credit for coming back from 17 points down to end up with a 23-20 win.
It’s the type of situation they would never have recovered from in the past, but if you don’t know by now, these aren’t your usual Lions.
Here are the highlights:
Please note that all video footage is for the website only and is rights restricted, and therefore only available in regions that fall within SuperSport’s broadcast footprint.
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Try of the week:
Robbie Coleman’s effort against the Stormers came close to edging it this week, but in the end we couldn’t look past Cornal Hendricks’ stunning effort against the Blues. Who says sevens skills have no place in the 15s format?
Here it is:
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Cambist Best of Twitter:
Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:
|The Smile High Club
Pat Cilliers popped the question this week – on the plane it seems – and is set to be a married man soon. We’re not sure if that’s a bit of fear in his face or happiness, we’ll go with the latter. But before we wish him and his fiancé Megan well, we’d just like to ask – was there a crouch and set before the “engage”?
|He'll Beale right
Waratahs playmaker Kurtley Beale loves South Africa it seems. If it's not the bars and the nightlife, then its lazing away in the sun. One of his teammates caught him catching up on game plans this week.
One of the biggest reasons for the Force revival is their South African lock Wilhelm Steenkamp. And post-match locker room pics are a favourite of the Williston player whose middle name is Jabez. Here he is with Sam Wykes enjoying the win over the Chiefs.
Going for Brooke
Leroy Houston had the best day of his life the other day, meeting his childhood hero Zinzan Brooke. Brooke looks a little older, but is still the wise head we knew from his days at the All Blacks. We wonder if Leroy has modelled a drop goal in his hero’s honour?
Onelaw Video vault
Flip van der Merwe has done a couple of interviews since being announced as Bulls captain, but surely nothing like this one by Kobus Wiese:
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Nick "Honeybadger" Cummins gave us another great post-match interview this week. How busy was he against the Chiefs? Watch him describe it here:
We had to chuckle when a cheeky reporter put a scenario to Bulls coach Frans Ludeke shortly after his side had beaten the Sharks.
“Frans,” he said, “Five minutes to go, a penalty in front of the posts, Dewald Potgieter as captain, Jake White as the opposing coach, did you get any deja vu?”
This was, of course, referring to the Bulls meltdown in their Vodacom Super Rugby semifinal last year when they lost to the Brumbies when Potgieter refused to take shots at goal.
But we were even more impressed with Ludeke’s answer.
“Dewald said in the captain’s practice, if he gets a penalty, even if it is on his own 22, he will be pointing at the posts,” Ludeke fired back, to raucous laughter.
Good on him for seeing the lighter side.
Can't fake Jake
White, on the other hand, had a snipe at sides complaining of long injury lists, when talking about losing Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach in the opening 15 minutes of the Loftus clash.
“I see every side has a long injury list, some of them even add players onto the list that stopped playing five years ago,” White said.
We aren’t at all sure who he was referring to, but it couldn’t have been the Bulls. Some may say Pierre Spies had stopped playing five years ago but we know he was in this year’s opening clash in Durban.
A dream night out
Speaking of mystery, we will probably never know the real story behind All Blacks’ Israel Dagg and Corey Jane’s night out in the Rugby World Cup, but some strange details have emerged this week.
Both Dagg and Jane admitted being out past team protocol, but it was conveniently swept under the carpet at the time, with the All Blacks so desperate to win the World Cup.
Now in the last week we have learnt they mixed alcohol with sleeping pills, something that surely should have set off alarm bells and this week we hear they cannot remember much from the night either.
''I don't know where the idea came from,'' said Dagg. ''Boys are going to be boys and just try these things. It is not the brightest thing to do, but we did it and we are paying for it.''
Jane and Dagg hit headlines during the tournament when they were seen out on what was reported to be a ''boozy'' night in Takapuna just days before the All Blacks' quarterfinal against Argentina.
''I can tell you exactly what happened. We finished a massage and took two sleeping pills just to go back to the room to go to sleep, but we figured we needed to get something to eat and went to dinner and then they kicked in,'' Jane said.
''There was no mixing with energy drinks, no thought of going to the pub and drinking and partying. We had a big training the next day so we happened to go out quickly to get something to eat and they kicked in and we were on autopilot.''
Jane said he woke up in the morning thinking he had returned to his room and gone to sleep and had been shocked to learn later in the day what had happened.
''I woke up the next day, went to training, had a good training, and then got told afterwards we'd gone out. I didn't even know we'd gone out. All I remember is getting something for dinner then waking up the next morning.
''So when people say 'why were we stupid enough to go out there and get on the juice a few days before an important final,' we can say we didn't plan to go out.
''We just made the mistake of taking the sleeping pills and instead of taking them when we were jumping in bed we quickly tried to get something to eat and that was that.''
The incident had been ''embarrassing'' and ''scary''.
''Yep, and I learned my lesson. It's never good having your name put up in the paper for being a boozer or doing something stupid especially in the World Cup ahead of one of the biggest games we had to play.
''It's scary not knowing I did anything that night, waking up thinking I had a brilliant sleep, that's scary.
''If I had to tell people I'd say 'don't do it'. If you are going to take sleeping pills, jump in bed. I guess it's similar to alcohol and that sort of stuff, people abuse it and it can backfire on you.''
Still we wonder what the reaction would have been if it was two Boks in New Zealand, and whether the Kiwi press would have accepted the explanation so easily. Probably not…