White's Wallabies coaching bid gains pace
March 19, 2013
ACT Brumbies boss Jake White is staking his own claim for the Wallabies coaching job with his side riding high © Getty Images
Jake White's claims as a Wallabies coach in waiting are gathering pace with his five surprise changes against the Sharks on Sunday proving a masterstroke.
White, who last week said he'd like to return to international coaching in the future, is quickly closing the gap on heir apparent and Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie.
The Brumbies had their worst ever season in 2011 before White took control of the ship, finishing third last while McKenzie's Reds won the championship.
Fast forward 18 months and the Brumbies are now six points clear of the second-place Chiefs, ten points clear of their nearest conference rivals the Reds and hold the record for the longest away-winning streak (7).
The Brumbies had just five Wallabies players in the run-on side that demolished the Sharks 29-10 in Durban on Sunday morning.
That number drops to two current Wallabies if you don't include winger Joe Tomane (one cap), lock Peter Kimlin (two caps) and the ineligible George Smith, who is currently contracted to Japanese club Suntory.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs run-on side that was beaten by the Cheetahs in Sydney had nine Wallabies, all except for man of the match Paddy Ryan (one cap) has played more than five games for Australia.
The five changes White made to his three-from-three starting side for the Sharks match were as fine as an example of knowing your enemy as you'll ever see.
Having led the backbone of the Sharks outfit to the 2007 Rugby World Cup win, White used his intimate knowledge of the side's weaknesses to his advantage whilst both building up the depth of his squad and giving regular players a rest.
Of the changes, Fotu Auelua was man of the match, Scott Sio's scrummaging led to the bonus-point try, Smith topped the side's tackle count, Tomane scored a try and Tevita Kuridrani's past life as a Sevens player directly led to two linebreaks.
"It's fantastic and rewarding for a coach when you make a couple of changes and get a return from the boys who get a chance," White said after the match.
Many of the players White has developed over the past two years are now banging down the door for Wallabies selection.
Coach Robbie Deans says he's had his interest piqued enough by the early-season form of fullback Jesse Mogg and captain Ben Mowen to add them to his 49-player squad to take on the British and Irish Lions in June.
They join Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dan Palmer, David Pocock (injured), Nic White, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe and Tomane from the Brumbies.
However the Reds still outnumber the Brumbies in the squad with 16 players as well as the Waratahs with 13, and the lowly Rebels even have eight.
If Deans continues to ignore the standout performances of the other Brumbies players - including Matt Toomua, Sam Carter, Peter Kimlin, Henry Speight and Auelua - they might just find themselves in a Wallabies jersey before too long regardless.
Under a newly appointed White.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra