Pick Watson or else...
Tuesday July 18 2006Jooste has a message for White
Springbok selection chief Pieter Jooste arrived in New Zealand, armed with videos of Western Province captain Luke Watson's last two matches, and a clear instruction to Bok coach Jake White: Pick him now.
Pick me, pick me: Luke Watson
Jooste left for New Zealand on Monday, just days after South Africa's second worst defeat in history (a 49-0 hammering at the hands of Australia at the weekend) and at a time when the debate around Watson's non selection is heating up.
Rugby365 has reliably learnt that Jooste's trip to New Zealand and his discussions with White will centre around the Bok coach's stubborn stance against the selection of the WP captain.
Watson has been in sublime form in the last few weeks, leading Province to famous victories over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria and the defending Currie Cup champions, the Cheetahs, in Cape Town.
His leadership skills has also made him the standout player in the Currie Cup, as he took his 'no name' brand, young Province squad to heights last seen in Cape Town in the 1997 and 2000 seasons.
But it is his ability as an openside flank, or fetcher, that has really caused debate - with White famously saying he doesn't need to pick Watson because he has "15 fetchers" in his team.
Unfortunately for White none of them managed to arrive in time for last week's whitewash in Brisbane and his team was handed one of the most humiliating hidings in the history of the Tri-Nations.
Another of the Bok coach's infamous clangers were that his two sons are the best "fetchers", because they fetch him beer from the fridge.
And on Monday he again defended his decision not to select Watson by saying that he must play Solly Tyibilika, because the need for transformation prescribes him to do so.
His outlandish public statements has also given ammunition to the comedy circuit, who likes to take on public figures that make such foolish statements. Apparently White's new nickname is "Whacko Jake-o".
But it appears the brainstrust at the South African Rugby Union (SARU) has finally had enough and had sent Jooste to New Zealand with a clear message - to tell White that Watson is a must for the national team.
It is not sure when Watson is likely to be called up, but there are some technical issues preventing him from formally joining the team in New Zealand this week.
The Boks already had their allowed quota of 28 players (according to SANZAR rules) and when lock Danie Rossouw was injured against Australia at the weekend, Sharks fly-half Butch James was called up - bringing the team back up to 28 players.
But there is nothing preventing Watson from going to New Zealand, at the cost of SARU as a non-playing member of the squad and then being available if another injury occurs. There are plenty of loopholes that will allow Watson to be in New Zealand for any eventuality.
The Boks play the All Black in Wellington on Saturday.
The Watson debate is not White's only selection headache.
White sent an SOS to Sharks fly-half Butch James on Monday, ahead of Saturday's Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand, as he attempts to repair deficiencies highlighted in last weekend's 49-0 loss to Australia.
James, who technically replaces the injured lock Danie Rossouw in the Springboks squad, is given an outside chance of starting at fly-half on Saturday, ahead of Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Meyer Bosman.
"The sort of straight running Butch does is much more dangerous to the defence because they can't just drift across," Jooste told the media.
"Against New Zealand, if you keep kicking them into the corners and stopping their momentum, they can crack under the pressure. They get frustrated far easier than the Australians, who always seem to have several ways of bursting through."
South Africa is due to announce its starting line-up on Wednesday.
* Meanwhile White finally conceded that the rush defence, the thundering emphasis on brute force - while neglecting the game's subtle skills - and the conservative, safety-first style of the Boks was no longer the way to play the game.
He hinted that the Boks' tactics are due for an overhaul.
"Sometimes you get it wrong, and when you get it wrong it can go badly wrong," White told a media gathering in Wellington on Monday.
"We really had the good times and now it's time to reflect and understand what is happening. We are embarrassed by what happened on the weekend and the only way out is to learn from it and move on. If not, we've got to be accountable."