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White versus Henry on mid-year madness

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Springbok coach Jake White has come out in defence of the decision by the Northern Hemisphere countries to send depleted teams on their annual trip to the south, inadvertently putting himself in the opposite corner to All Black mentor Graham Henry.

While Henry has expressed strong criticism of the mid-year madness which parades itself as internationals – with England, Ireland, Wales and France all sending second rate teams on their respective trips to the Southern Hemisphere – White said he fully understands why the coaches have not brought their best teams out on tour.

Speaking ahead of his team’s second test against an injury and illness ravaged England team – not to mention the fact that they arrived without 30-odd of their first choice players – White said that you can’t criticise the coaches for what they have done.

“It is quite ironic that he [All Black coach Graham Henry] criticise them like that,” White told a large media gathering on Wednesday.

“He rested his players for eight weeks in the Super 14,” the Boks coach added.

White said that “every coach” is obviously looking towards the World Cup in France later this year and thus will do what is in their own best interest.

“Eddie O’Sullivan has left many Irish players at home [for their trip to Argentina], England are in the same situation [in South Africa], Wales haven’t taken their full strength team [to Australia] and France have taken a mixture of their B’s and C’s [to New Zealand].

“Again, it shows the importance of the World Cup. Countries are taking the World Cup seriously.

“I don’t think anyone can be critical of it [the decision by coaches to rest their top players],” White said.

“Obviously I think he would like to have played a strong French team, but he’s in a very different situation to where we are.

“They [New Zealand] don’t play France in their [World Cup] pool. Argentina are up against Ireland in World Cup pool matches, Wales face Australia [in the World Cup pool stages] and South Africa are up against England [World Cup pool matches].

“I suppose in some ways he is different in terms of what he’s getting in the World Cup and what we’ll be getting in the World Cup,” the Boks mentor added.

White has remained adamant that he expects a strong challenge from England in the second test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, despite England losing another four players to injury and illness on Wednesday – having lost three last week and missing 30-odd top players, who did not come on tour.

Not even the fact that the Boks recorded their biggest ever win over England in the first test in Bloemfontein last week could force White to write the English off.

“I expect nothing less than what England always offer,” White said, when asked what his expectations were of the embattled English tourists.

“England are a proud nation, they are the current world champions [World Cup holders]. They have also come out and said they are going to be a much improved side [from last week].

“I have no doubt England will be a lot better prepared,” White said.

White, who made three changes to his team for Saturday’s Loftus showdown, said he sees the game as an opportunity to continue building towards the World Cup.

“We got an opportunity now to keep the same core group of players together. I don’t have to overemphasize the importance of this game. They are becoming a mature Springboks team now – the players have been successful in Super 14 and they appreciate that every test match this year is important for us to build momentum going forward.”

White also said he is looking for his team to improve with every outing.

“What we can pick up [improve] is how we perform from Saturday to Saturday. It is not a case of who we play against, it is about making sure this team progresses, making sure this team plays as much rugby as possible together

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