The Roar
The Roar

Sinclair Whitbourne

Roar Rookie

Joined May 2017









Muzzo, we agree on a lot but on Foster we do not.

Foster was the disaster who took the Waikato super rugby franchise to its first final – they were well beaten by a powerful NT side (Bulls if one likes the franchise names), who won two comps back to back. His next season was hampered by injury to key players. The rest of his tenure looks on or above par with their Super rugby performance. Rennie got them back to back comp wins and deserves great credit – he was and is a high quality coach. Rennie took a core of players that Foster had raised and added a contingent that Rennie himself developed. Rennie being a fine coach does not make Foster a bad one.

‘The disaster’ had a better record with the NZ ‘colts’ than Razor.

The disaster with Waikato – here it is from Wiki/disaterpedia:
“Foster was the head coach of Waikato for 2002 and 2003. In 2002, Waikato finished first after the round robin stage with eight wins from nine games, but ultimately lost the final to Auckland 28-40.[4]

In the 2003 season Waikato were second behind Otago after the round robin standings with six wins from nine games. They then lost their home semi-final 29-30 to Wellington.[5]

Overall, Foster’s coaching record with Waikato was 15 wins from 21 games.”

Seriously, ‘a disaster’?

The ‘jobs for the boys’ comment is lazy because it relies purely on the idea that people who had worked with him got him the job, but it ignores the fact that the panel appointed was led by someone with no connections to Foster and it does not explain why people decided to risk their own reputations by picking an allegedly poor candidate over a strong one. There is a perfectly plausible counter; Razor had a monumental cock up of an interview and he had a weaker set of assistant coaches.

The Disaster took NZ to the RWC final last year and a rather narrow loss. That was an improvement on 2019, I believe. The disaster had to deal with the loss of almost all of the extraordinary group who had won pretty much everything between about 2011 – 217. Transitions from really dominant sides rarely go smoothly – consider the period after the great 1987 side went into decline and again from around 1998-2002. I note that in 1991 RWC the ABs went out well beaten in the semi, in 1999 the debacle against France and in 2003 the scuppering in the semi. So, the Disaster looks relatively less disasterous, doesn’t he? Oh, and he didn’t have a season like 1998 and a 3-0 drubbing by the Wallabies, or 2001 and a clean sweep by them.

I have no issue with those who feel Razor should have got the job, or that Foster was not in the very top rank of coaches NZ have seen, or that he might have been better suited to AC than HC but I can never stand by and allow this kind of stuff to be churned out by people who, in your case especially, are better than that.

I would have gone with Razor in 2019, but I don’t need to belittle a perfectly capable servant of the game in Foster. He also showed a lot more dignity than the largest part of his detractors and I, for one, would kill to have been the disaster he was, as a player or as a coach.

You are better than this, Muzzo. Way better. Don’t let social media make you lazy.

ANALYSIS: Good teams win when they're not at their best - but the Brumbies have a lot to fix to challenge in Super Rugby

Enjoyed the article and the focus on the AC’s. As another reader noted, they are often ignored but can sometimes be as influential as the head coach – consider NZ and Wayne Smith, as an example.

I also liked your point about having coaches develop their knowledge and skills with time in other places and the idea of having some on staff with deeper connections to the game in the relevant ‘franchise’ or province. When Jake White came to the Brumbies he sought out people with close local connections (although he also picked up quite a bit of QLD talent) to bring back a sense of connection that some felt had been lost. It also helped pick up a former QLDer playing lower grades in Canberra named Jesse Mogg.

It is really nice for me to see QLD starting to play rugby I can identify with again, after about a decade. There was a time when they were a smart side on the field, covered off all the basics of the game and then did a few things really well. I loved the sides from the 1980’s-about 1999 and then the McKenzie period.

Discovering the blueprint for Super Rugby success: How Kiss managed to get away from a one-dimensional style

Indeed. He was poor with QLD in 2007 as well. He is a terrible fit with sides that are not near the top of their game. So he was always going to be a huge risk for a side that had a 30% win rate and lacked world class players. That’s the fit issue again – matching the right type to the right type of scenario.

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

I agree on the risks of picking people before they are ready, or for the wrong game or the wrong game plan.

Lolesio was an example with Rennie, where he was just a terrible fit for what Rennie was wanting to do and he was asked to debut v NZ. Shades of 1993 at Carisbrooke for Pat Howard. Or 2013 Matt Toomua v NZ.

The spine positions need ‘old heads and strong bodies’ – 2, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 15. Some have those qualities earlier than others but …

For what it is worth, I think Ikitau is an essential because he locks down that critical 13 position defensively and his work in possession is sometimes underrated.

There are actually some very good players coming up through the age groups as the performance of the U20’s shows and that also suggests that some of the coaching malaise may be lifting.

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

Anyone who likes Bulgakov would appreciate this dark comedy. Who will play Professor Woland?

'Everyone's in the hunt': RA won't rule out stunning Wallabies return after Cheika departs Argentina role

You misunderstand me. Rebuild is not about which centre do you pick, or which player at all. It is about a side that struggles to complete the structural elements of rugby on a consistent basis. It is about systems. Systems build players not the other way around. That’s why the Brumbies and Canterbury/Crusaders seem to always be there or there abouts, despite players coming ad going. White picked a mix of youth and older guys at the Brumbies. It isn’t about age it is about how you will fit into systems. Fardy was a washed up, peripheral sad sack but White saw how this older player could fit. He also saw how a young 3rd grade Wests player from QLD could fit (Mogg).

Australia lack a world class set piece in either lineout or scrum. That is the source, the supply of ball. Australia lack on the ball potency at ruck and maul, that is the continuity of supply. Australia lack the ability to control the tempo and style of the game – that is about a lack of acumen with tactical kicking. Australia lack an effective kick-chase. Australia lack a repeatable, consistent defensive structure. I might go on…

A coach like White will do that rebuild – the systems. That is what he does. Coleman at NSW has some of that, but I think he is way off being ready for the national job. There are not many rebuild coaches around who are ready for coaching a national side. Other types of coach may get lucky and things just come together but I see Oz as having been in a rebuild situation for at least 18 years, since Eddie Jones f%^#ed the systems up here (with help) between 2001-2005.

Hoping that clarifies.

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

Another fact free opinion. 2013 Jake ball no flair top try scorers – that wizard of deadly dull play, Henry Speight (the man had zero flair) and Jesse Mogg. Never mind the facts let’s just say the first thing that comes to mind.

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

But at the Brumbies he utilised a different style, as he had at Natal and the Sharks.

And plenty of running rugby was the Cheika and Rennie way – I will let their win/loss ratios speak for themselves. Rugby is a set piece and kicking game. You can build running on top of that, or you can just lose a lot of games you should win. Or follow League, a game for 13 backs.

How to respond to ‘notoriously the world’s most negative coach’? Well, I guess Rassie is a really ambitious guy in playing style and Borthwick’s England really let rip didn’t they? Watch the 2012 and 2013 Brumbies under Jake the Snake – they scored more tries than any Oz side bar the wonderful Waratahs (43 to 45), who finished 3rd in the Oz conference, 15 points behind the Brumbies and in 9th place overall. But those Waratahs ran from everywhere. The points diff between the Brumbies and the Waratahs was +135 to +40. The Brumbies beat the BI Lions and the Waratahs ran it from everywhere and lost. The Brumbies played in the Super final, the Waratahs were spectators. But here is a link

Yes, it is often a fact free zone here on the Roar, where sport is treated like some kind of primal scream therapy, even more so than it used to be, but does it have to be that way?

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

I think the answer to ‘who’s best for that?’ (and it is a good question) is no-one, because of the fractious nature of the Oz rugby scene. If they pick someone from outside Oz, the locals get their noses out of joint as a collective (except for the ones who get assistant gigs), but if you go local then you get the everyone v ACT, QLD v NSW and so on.

I think you go back to what is the scenario for Oz rugger? A re-tuning of a basically well running motor or a major rebuild because about all that is left of the motor is the block? To me it is a major rebuild.

From there you look at who has been successful at rebuilds – Coleman has at club level and with qualified results at NSW but I think he is well short of experience and standing for this job. Did Schmidt do a rebuild in his career to date? I think you can argue he did with Ireland but Ireland have been a side on the improve for a while and had been before him – he certainly tuned that motor, though.

As the article says, Jake White can schmooze and kiss the babies without biting off too many heads. But the key might be to appoint a liaison who does a lot of that.

It isn’t Jake or nothing for me, but there are not a lot of genuine rebuild coaches at international level right now. I actually think he burnt his bridges here in 2013 and I doubt he will ever be hired here. I just want some clarity in the hiring process. None of the coaches Oz has hired since 2005 have been bad coaches, including Eddie, who I never wanted to see within a million miles of this place. However, I think there has been a failure to match coaching specialty to situation and we have seen the results.

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

It is less a question of find a ‘good coach’ and more a question of find the coach with the right particular skill set for this particular point in Australia’s rugby scene.

My assessment is that this is a rebuild scenario, where there is a need for talent and mentality identification and development, for matching the cattle to the game plan and finally accepting that the standard of basic skills and reliable completion of fundamental parts of the game is that to be expected of a side properly ranked around 8-10th in the world.

All of these are things Jake White has done, in SA and Oz. He isn’t the only rebuild ‘specialist’ but he is one of the few that are available. The other names don’t really seem to have that feature. As noted, no guarantees though, as Montpellier didn’t go well at all and he is a short term coach generally (2-4 years) because he is abrasive and does make enemies – despite winning a RWC a lot of South Africans can’t stand him, for example. However, he doesn’t burn through assistants like fast Eddie.

It doesn’t have to be Jake the Snake or bust but it would be maximising chances of things working to get a rebuild specialist, whether him or someone with similar capacities.

'He's up for it': Why ex-Boks World Cup-winner Jake White should be on the Wallabies coaching hit list

Understood. I read Slipper more as supporting Hooper as captain and his right to speak if he wasn’t happy, than support for what he was saying but…

It was a horrible time. Issues with behaviour ran deep. There had been a physical altercation between (from memory) Nathan Sharpe and one of the three amigoes over attitude some years before and James Horwill was also beside himself. The behaviour stuff crossed state lines. Unfortunately, starting in Dublin in 2013 it did take on a state-based aspect and that got worse over the next 6 months.

It wasn’t helped by some aspects of the Di Patson situation – the truth of it we will probably never know. The two people on the scene I had the fortune to speak with had diametrically opposed views on this – so where does that leave us?

The organisational set up of the Wallabies does seem to have been pretty poor (nothing to do with coach or players) and it was a distraction.

Whilst I think a Jake White type coach would have cleaned behaviour up and out, as he had at the Brumbies, it isn’t a given because he’d have needed support from the board if he wanted to toss a big name and he may not have got that.

If there is a reason for hope, other than the relatively good performances of our Under 20’s in recent years, it would be that the current squad doesn’t seem to have a lot of behaviour issues, for all the other problems besetting it.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

Are you referring to Slipper’s drug issues or saying that he was part of the push to dump McKenzie? In terms of behaviour issues there were issues across the board, but the internal push for a change of coach was much tighter in terms of which players from which state. I don’t recall Slipper being noted as one of those driving for a change …

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

I was very unhappy about the way Link’s tenure ended and still am. The push came from some NSW players and power brokers. I had the good fortune to speak with someone who was in the support part of Link’s set up, about 18 months after it all ended and he was very angry, very traumatized really and made it very clear who he saw as behind it all. However, he also said some things that suggested Link himself was starting to have some reservations because of the absolute shambles on the organisational/admin side.

In 2019 I spoke to someone very highly placed in the admin at the time who was absolutely convinced that they had to do what they did. He was also quite emotional about it. Although it left the issue of justification unanswered, it did make pretty clear who was behind the putsch.

2015 was a good year but the rest has been, in my view, a train wreck. I’d have kept the coach and punted the malcontents. Bad ju-ju.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

Agree. There will need to be some very clear communication about expectations and the kind of things that people for should be looking for that may not just be win/loss but represent progress. It might be identifying things like improving lineout wins on opposition ball, or percentage quick ruck ball etc. If people just go for ‘did we win?’ then there is a good chance that the next coach will also be ushered out without any real progress.

I recall that when Dan McKellar took over at the Brumbies, one of the things advised was to look for a less restrictive style of play (not a big ask, admittedly). In his first few months the side looked shocking. But you could see logic in team selections and you could see in the way the team was setting up that there was a clear plan and a clear direction. So, when the results were not coming, you could still identify progress. Towards the end of that season things started coming together and the side went on a run of wins. Without that communication McKellar might have been in dire trouble.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

It would be an interesting pick with O’Gara and I agree with the idea of looking at other parts of the machine (Nucifora). O’Gara does look like he understands the importance of the base and the basics, but he has also been at places where that is deep and in place. In other words he can build off it, he doesn’t need to build it. I think it basically needs to be built with the Wallabies.

The Cheika thing – well, they got what they wanted and they got what they should have known they would likely get. He is not the clown he is made out to be, but he is a 2-3 year coach and he was not what was needed in 2014.

The turnaround at Salta really damaged Australian rugby didn’t it? I suspect he was gone if that match had continued as it had to half time, a la Greg Smith in South Africa in 1997.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

Not intended as a slight on Macqueen, I was reflecting on who was available in 2013 and who is available now and looking at whether there is enough reflection on matching ‘type’ of coach to situation.

Macqueen is a really interesting situation in terms of the nature of the job. Was it a rebuild, or more a case of polishing (not a turd but a rough gem)? I can see arguments either way. The core of the team was world class in terms of players in key positions and a number of experiments that were duds under the unfortunate Smith worked under Macqueen – including Larkham at 10 and also Horan at 10 (arguably suggests more a polishing issue).

However, the scrum had been very much a weakness under Smith but whilst it was rarely better than servicable under Macqueen, it did improve, defence had been a problem and that improved, mentality in game improved – all suggestive of going deeper, as you say and I agree re fitness and conditioning.

Ultimately, I think if you look at Macqueen and his sides, they started off perfecting what I would call the critical base of rugby. You have to be able to gain and have some control over supply (set piece, both your ball and theirs – the Wallabies had a killer defensive lineout). You have to be able to exert control over where you end up ‘playing’ and where you don’t ‘play’ – long range kicking. You have to be able to deliver continuity of supply and be able to disrupt your opponent’s (ruck and maul). White has a very similar approach. What you do with the ball can vary enormously but both are coaches who have a record that shows a heavy focus on getting these things right, first and foremost.

Other coaches will, of course, have focus on this base, but their attention, their skills, their passion, lies more on what happens after you have the base set up. I would put Link in that category and I would put most of the coaches the Wallabies have had since 2001 into that category. There is absolutely a place for this type of coach and the division can be taken too far, but I think there has been a mismatch between the coaching focus needed and the coaching focus selected.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

Out of interest, what are your thoughts on the ideal candidates for the role of Wallabies’ coach and the type of coach needed? I think there are good candidates, but I am troubled by the lack of obvious rebuild specialists with the kind of CV for a national job. I have a high opinion of White (a controversial figure it must be said) but I think the prospects of him being approached, or accepting are probably around zero. Punt on Coleman, who seems closest to a rebuild man? Try to get someone like Jumpin’ Joe Schmidt? Or look to lure Dan the Tiger?

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

Fair enough. My view is that he resigned in the way people ‘chose’ to jump off the plank. I don’t agree that ‘fired’ implies a raw deal, though. In my view he had run his course, important relationships had broken down at player and board level. I guess we agree on the outcome but not the words. Reasonable minds can differ on such things.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

Cheers. It was bizarre. He was a very fine, hard man Springbok. His defence was also that he didn’t have control over what happened at the Kamp but he did choose it….

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

I agree with you. Personally, that QLD side of 1996 was one of the most exciting provincial teams I have seen, with an 18 yo Flatley at 10, they ran in a lot of exciting tries (the win over Auckland was a tremendous game) and they also played smart, hard rugby. That Auckland side was pretty close to the one that beat the Lions in 1993.

I could say something similar about the 2013 Wallaby tourists, though I felt they still had serious structural type issues. That is not a criticism of Link, but I really felt he was not the coach the side needed. after the 2015 RWC might have been his time, after a White type coach had done more than plaster over some cracks.

The lessons Wallabies can take from 2013 as they search for the new missing Link

As always, anything by Spiro Zavos is worth the read. A great stylist, with strong views and always something to say worth listening to.

I am fine with having a 6-2 or even an 8-0 forward split on the bench. You take chances with the way you make up that bench, however you structure it.

Rugby is a game of differing styles and the bench structure reflects that. We will see teams that prefer to accumulate points through running with the ball, teams that prefer a slower, attritional style, teams that thrive on chaos and teams that prefer a methodical, defined style.

I am not much moved by arguments about the ‘spirit of the game’. This tends to be an elusive beast that means different things to different people.

If the bench split was leading to a game that was taking away the things that make the game distinctive (ruck, maul, scrum, lineout) I would be concerned. Those things are structural (or maybe even spiritual!). Without those things you have League played by 15 people, as it was in its early days. That is not a crack at League, it is a statement about what distinguishes the two.

The teams that have the best chance of winning the tournament will also be the ones with a squad that can do honour to the things that make rugby distinctive. The quirks of the draw, luck, home advantage all play a part, too. But the two teams that play in the final will need to have shown they can match or better anyone else at scrum/lineout/ruck and maul. They will need a reliable goal-kicker. The rest is optional.

I have some sympathy for the different body shapes argument, although I think that is a biproduct of the structures of the game, rather than something core to the game. Players have been getting bigger across all positions for many years. Hookers used to be quite small, a long time ago and wingers used to put the ball into the lineout. Scrums could be structured with different front row formations. There was a time when you could scrum instead of take a lineout, kick out on the full from anywhere etc. A try used to be worth less than a penalty, drop kick or conversion – it allowed you to try for a goal. Ultimately, the essential structures of rugby remain.

I enjoy watching ball in hand and athletic backs burning across the field, but I can watch 80 minutes of that and near constant action by watching League. What makes rugby so appealing is the mix of that with scrum, lineout, ruck and maul. I also like the various cadences in the game. League is relentless 4/4 time. Rugby has more. If you watch the game carefully you will see that the ‘dead’ time is not so dead – the way the front row is setting, the pulling out just before the set etc. all mean something and show something. The ref can police the more extreme aspects of slow time.

SPIRO ZAVOS: The best team in the tournament, not necessarily the best team, will win the 2023 RWC

Kind of like having someone refer to me as being in an aircon office in Sydney etc.

It is always a bit disappointing when to praise a person’s play results in one being said to be of their country, or to share their politics etc.

Or that to ask that there just be a few lines in an article about the very particular circumstances relevant to their sporting isolation be included is asking for an invasion of social justice. C’est la vie.

As I said, sitting in my aircon in Sydney, smashing avocadoes and apparently expressing misdirected ‘outrage’ (these bits came from someone else), I love your articles and my sense is that you love the game and the greats, wherever they are from and that, to me is a fantastic thing.

Danie Gerber suffered in sporting isolation, but was rugby's greatest centre

Bliksem, are you referring to my post or something you imagine was posted? I wrote “I don’t argue for ignoring Gerber or others like him. All I ask is that there be a few lines at least reminding us that while they got to play for their country, to display their prowess, they benefitted from several centuries of privilege based on race, that while they played, others were being shot at Sharpeville, Soweto, in the vicious bush wars in Angola, Namibia, ‘Rhodesia’, others were losing their chance to display their prowess because they spoke out – as Bedford did.”

I am not sure how that is even really controversial.

I also went to some lengths to look beyond the simple – read my last para.

I think some people are giving vent to their own issues not anything that is actually in what I wrote. Maybe that says more about their own psychology and needs than about what I wrote?

Danie Gerber suffered in sporting isolation, but was rugby's greatest centre

Sheek, I think I covered all that in my post. But let’s not demean the people who did stand up, despite the survival instinct and the odds. I expressed empathy for Gerber – read the last para of my post. I wrote it whilst smashing avocado in my aircon office in Sydney, difficult though it was to see with my black and white lenses and outrage.

Danie Gerber suffered in sporting isolation, but was rugby's greatest centre

JN, I think you need to go back and actually read what I wrote rather than inventing some stuff and venting your spleen, including the capitalised words. As for the irony of your focus being on today (capitalised or not) when responding to an article and a post about the past, well what can I say? Let’s just pretend that there is no past, except the good bits.

Danie Gerber suffered in sporting isolation, but was rugby's greatest centre