Second Phase

White blowing the winds of change?

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 14:40
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The Stormers can't score tries and the Cheetahs can't defend
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Is Jake White's early success at the Sharks threatening the job security of some of his fellow South African Super Rugby coaches?

The World Cup-winning Springbok coach has made the perfect start to his tenure at Kings Park with the Sharks winning their first four games fairly easily, which has increased the pressure on coaches such as Allister Coetzee and Naka Drotske.

The Stormers and the Cheetahs have only one victory each so far this season, and calls for their franchises to explore different coaching options have been growing with each defeat.

They find themselves tied on five log points at the bottom of the standings as they near the end of their respective overseas tours, but it seems that the familiar manner of their defeats is what has caused frustration to reach boiling point.

Drotske and Coetzee have both held their jobs for a while, but there are concerns that their teams are not developing under their watch, with the same old problems recurring every year - in a nutshell the Stormers can't score tries and the Cheetahs can't defend.

The Stormers have scored just five tries in their four games this season, whilst the Cheetahs have conceded 18 tries in their five games, and the fact that the Free State side did not let in a single try in their first two games makes that number even more startling.

These numbers indicate that not much has changed in Cape Town and Bloemfontein, whilst by contrast White has stamped his personality on the Sharks team straight away and made a clean break with the past.

Something that should be taken into account is the favourable draw the Sharks have enjoyed at the start of the season, which has allowed them to built valuable momentum - something that Drotske and Coetzee would have killed for considering the fact that they are both yet to win a game on tour.

It is still early days in the competition and a fair comparison can only really be made when the Sharks return from their overseas tour, but that point will certainly not be enough to appease those baying for coaching blood.

In short, the impact that White has made at the Sharks cannot be denied. He did inherit a star-studded squad packed with Springboks, but he has still managed to get the best out of them immediately, with the form of players such as Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo and Marcell Coetzee good examples of this.

It has been a honeymoon period in Durban for White who has never really parted ways with any of his previous employers on the best of terms, and it may be that he is still to encounter the kind of headaches that come with the kind of long-term coaching relationships that Coetzee and Drotske are currently involved in.

However, his fast start at Kings Park is making his peers look bad as their teams stagnate and they trot out the same old lines while White tells anyone who will listen that his team is going to claim the title.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of Stormers and Cheetahs fans who are very envious of the difference White has made in Durban, with the tone of the comments on this website a good indicator that they are ready for some fresh ideas.

With quality coaches such as Brendan Venter, Gert Smal and Nick Mallett not currently tied to any teams there are some interesting options out there, but the wisdom of axing an established coach one month into the season has to be questioned.

Drotske and Coetzee may well be shown the door if they are not able to turn things around by the end of the season, but firing them now after a tough start would be an ill-advised knee-jerk reaction, no matter how well White's Sharks are playing.

By Michael de Vries

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