Thursday’s Rugby News has Jake White’s shock departure, the Wallabies trying to beef up, the Boks rotating and Nonu trying to have his cake and eat it too.
Jake White quits Brumbies
Just two months after leading his team into the Super Rugby grand final, Jake White has suddenly quit as Brumbies head coach. White had asked for a release from the last two years of his contract after being overlooked for the Wallabies top job. The Brumbies will now look to assistant coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher as the obvious candidates just two weeks before the players return for pre-season training.
Many of the Brumbies players were shocked to hear of the news yesterday on social media, after White had spoken to them just last week about the pre-season training program. The former head coach will now most likely return to South Africa, with possible links to either the Cape Town Stormers or the Durban Sharks.
New look Wallabies
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made a number of lineup changes with the intent of winning the physical battle against South Africa on the weekend. Skipper James Horwill returns from a hamstring injury at lock, with Adam Ashley-Cooper moving to right wing, Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre and Joe Tomane being recalled onto the left wing. He has also moved prop Benn Robinson and lock Sitaleki Timani back onto the bench.
After being thoroughly dominated in Brisbane, Stephen Moore said the Springboks would be expecting to execute the same simple, tough gameplan. When asked the key to reversing the Wallabies’ fortunes, Moore responded, ‘You’ve got to go out there with that desire and drive to impose yourself physically against these guys.’
Two changes for Boks
As part of a planned rotational switch, Adriaan Strauss and Fourie du Preez have been promoted to the South African starting line-up. Du Preez is starting his first Test for the Springboks since the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia, while the powerful Bismark du Plessis may be missed at the breakdown battle. Coach Heyneke Meyer addressed his selection policy yesterday, asserting, ‘The players all knew what the plans were for the Rugby Championships and where they stand. We were always going to rotate players where possible.’
And just quickly, Schalk Burger will make his long awaited return after 18 months lost to various injuries. Burger will likely play on Friday as a substitute for Western Province in the Currie Cup. WP coach Allister Coetzee said that the former Springbok looked sharp in training but will only get around 20 minutes as he eases back into the professional game.
All Blacks could still play Frenchman Nonu
New Toulon signing Ali Williams believes that the NZRU will make an exception for Ma’a Nonu, allowing his selection to the All Blacks even if the inside centre is playing in France. Nonu has been linked to Clermont once the Rugby Championship ends next month, after apparently being unrequired or unwanted at all the New Zealand Super franchises. ‘He’ll definitely play for New Zealand, he’s too good (not to),’ said Williams.
Nonu could be joined by powerful Irish flanker Sean O’Brien, who is considering a move to France at the end of his season with Leinster. Top 14 clubs Racing Metro and Clermont are said to be offering the most lucrative deals. While acknowledging his own hypocrisy, Jonathan Sexton has urged the IRFU to secure its big name players like O’Brien and the off-contract Jamie Heaslip. ‘It’s better for Irish rugby if they stay here,’ Sexton said.