Johannesburg – It’s 2006, and Jake White was feeling the heat for refusing to pick Luke Watson in the Springbok team.
This writer once asked him at a press conference about why he wasn’t picking a fetcher flank like Watson, and his obsession with big loose forwards who can jump in the line-outs.
White’s response was that the only fetcher he needs are his two sons, when they fetch him a beer from the fridge on a Sunday.
Now 14 years later, it’s a very different tune that the former Bok coach sings these days at Loftus Versfeld.
In fact, White came around to understanding the value that a specialist openside fetcher flank can add to any rugby team before he came back to South Africa and the Bulls this year.
One of the main reasons fort he Bulls’ success has been the form of their own fetcher flank, Marco van Staden.
It is his breakdown work that has helped the Bulls to stop the momentum of the opposition, and win penalties to gain territory and launch attacks from.
“He’s been probably the most consistent player for us this season. He’s always a threat – he carries well, his breakdown skills are phenomenal. I think what’s happened is that he’s got a lot of one-on-ones with the breakdown coach, Nollis Marais, and what’s really happening is that he is making such great calls as a defensive jackal as well,” said White.
“It’s not just going into every single breakdown. The way that he understands the role and understands the timing of what he does – whether he goes in, or folds around the corner and waits for the next breakdown, I thought he is getting better and better at that all the time. He was outstanding (against the Lions).”
So, White stopped short of saying the word “fetcher” but a jackal on van Staden to prove a point.