Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 19 News List

'Bok coach to face grilling over team's dodgy record

WHITE HEAT The Presidents Council does not have the power to fire Jake White, but a recommendation to the Board of SA Rugby that he be axed could cost him dearly

AFP , JOHANNESBURG

As if sitting through an anxious 80 minutes at Twickenham on Saturday wasn't enough, Springbok coach Jake White is set to face another few hours' worth of anxiety at a South African Rugby Union (SARU) meeting about his future in Cape Town today.

White's 'Boks recorded their first win against England at Twickenham in nine years last weekend, 25-14, but the national rugby coach will still have to appear before SARU's Presidents Council to explain why the 'Boks have performed so poorly this year.

The Presidents Council comprises the three top men in the game in South Africa -- president Oregan Hoskins, deputy president Mike Stofile and vice president Koos Basson -- as well as the provincial presidents from the 14 unions.

While SARU have insisted the meeting, which will cover more than just the White issue, was decided on a long time ago, the fact the national coach has to leave behind the Springbok team in the UK and return home for just a few minutes of chatting, is taking structure and planning a bit too far.

The 'Boks still have to complete their northern hemisphere tour with a match against a World XV in Leicester this Sunday.

Saturday's victory over the current World Champions will have relieved a bit of the pressure on White, who will end the year with five wins from 12 games, but it would still appear the 2004 Tri-Nations winning coach is fighting hard to hang on to his job, just months out from the World Cup.

Various quarters in South African rugby, among them clubs from the Blues Bulls region, the Valke and Western Province, have apparently called for White to resign, while it is believed the likes of Stofile are also keen to see him go.

The South Africa coach, however, has apparently got the backing of Hoskins, but no matter who is for and against him, the Presidents Council will have no power to fire the 'Bok coach today.

While it has decision-making power at local level, it does not have the rights to dismiss a coach. What it can do is make a recommendation to the Board of SA Rugby, who handle the Springboks and all professional rugby matters, who can then decide to act or not.

If a vote of no confidence in White is put forward by the Presidents Council, the Board are still likely to tread carefully when considering changing the 'Bok coach now. Getting rid of White and his management team now would apparently cost SA Rugby in the region of 20 million rand (US$2.8 million) and they are unlikely to again pay out a national coach. Former Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli walked away with a golden handshake after the disaster of the 2003 World Cup.

Strangely enough, if SA Rugby find 20 million rand to sack the coach or if White has a change of heart about taking the 'Boks to the World Cup in September, and see out his contract, another former national coach, Andre Markgraaff, could be tasked to fill in as caretaker coach.

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