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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 05:24 GMT
Springboks shoot for clean sweep
I just hope the players appreciate what sort of opportunity they have
Jake White

Springboks coach Jake White believes his Tri-Nations champions have a golden opportunity to push for a historic Grand Slam.

The clean sweep - wins against England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland by an overseas nation - was last achieved 20 years ago by Australia.

South Africa's bid for a first since 1961 begins against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

"We chatted about the Grand Slam tour before we left home," White said.

"We realise that some players will play rugby for another five or six years and probably never get another opportunity to play four home unions in one tour.

"I know some great Springbok sides that didn't have the opportunity to play on a Grand Slam tour.

"This is still a very young Springboks side, but if you look at what they achieved as a team this year, they surpassed expectations, not only of ourselves but also of our country.

"You get an opportunity, and we don't ever want to come back in years to come and say 'we should have done this, we should have done that'.

"I just hope the players, and I am sure they do, appreciate what sort of opportunity they have."

Two years ago this month, the Springboks were in disarray, smashed 53-3 by England at Twickenham in a game marred by sickening acts of foul play.

South Africa coach Jake White watches his players
White felt South Africa's image needed addressing

Their 2003 World Cup build-up was tainted by racism allegations within the camp, in addition to some controversial training methods, and a predictable quarter-final exit followed.

But South Africa have picked themselves up off the floor since White's appointment earlier this year.

"When I got the job one of the things I spoke to the captain and players about was off-the-field image, as well as getting things right on the field," he said.

"Everyone involved in rugby knew that our image wasn't what it should have been - in fact, it was probably at an all-time low.

"Maybe that's why the players have worked so hard and become such a great team because they realised they didn't want to go down that road again."

White attracted criticism for his team selection, with the current tour squad including several uncapped players.

"I think there was a lot of hype back home about the inclusion of certain players who haven't had the opportunity to play at a high level," he remarked.

"But we just feel it is a great opportunity during a six-week trip to bring some players along.

"I am not for one minute saying that any player on this tour has been brought as a passenger, but every player gets an opportunity to see what it's like to be in the Springbok culture.

"Every player here has been picked on the basis that I think he can represent South Africa."


SEE ALSO
Springboks commit to White
27 Sep 04 |  Rugby Union


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