Is Jake White heading for the Brumbies?

French reports that Jake White would take over as coach of Bayonne have proven to be greatly exaggerated with the World Cup-winning former Springboks coach already having interviewed for the Brumbies job via video conferencing this week.

There was momentary consternation in Canberra late last week when the French media reported that, following the appointment of Michel Cacoualt as the new president of Bayonne, earlier plans to install White as coach there, blocked by the outgoing club president, were set to be revived.

The plans initially had revolved around the former Les Bleus national team coach turned French Sports Minister Bernard Laporte taking over as club president but Cacoualt’s appointment was regarded as a compromise move acceptable to White.

Thankfully for the Brumbies, the former South Africa coach had moved on. And just when the barrage of text messages was starting to make Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan question whether in fact there was some truth to the media reports, he received a timely phone call.

“White phoned me to reassure me that it was the Brumbies job he wanted,” Fagan said.

“I knew the whole background to the Bayonne situation but it was still good to get the call. He is still very much in the race.”

Indeed, indications are that he is way out in front in the race. He certainly has had a head start in putting his case to Fagan, Joe Roff and the other members of the Brumbies coach selection panel, making his presentation via video conference from South Africa this week.

Interim coach Tony Rea, the only other known candidate among the four finalists, will also be interviewed this week.

Although the Brumbies have shown clear signs of improvement under him, he is realist enough to know that one win from six matches since he took over from Andy Friend is not going to be good enough.

The Brumbies, who already have resigned themselves to losing Test veterans Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper at the end of this season, have been hit by a new blow. Wallabies tour backrower Mitchell Chapman has just agreed to terms with a Japanese club.

Chapman was not able to reveal which club he has joined for the next two years, with the announcement to be made from Japan. “Hopefully it will come out in the next few days,” said the 62-game Super Rugby veteran.

Chapman has spent the past five weeks on the sideline recovering from the broken cheekbone and fractured eye socket he sustained in an accidental clash of heads with teammate Colby Faingaa during the Crusaders match.

But the backrower is hopeful of being given a medical clearance to make his return on the tour of South Africa.

If he does, he may have the odd difficulty passing through airport security after three plates were inserted in his head following the accident.

The Brumbies’ other high-profile casualties, Rocky Elsom, Stephen Moore and Huia Edmonds also are expected to make their return on the tour, which features matches against the Cheetahs and Sharks.

The squad will depart for the republic on Sunday with Rea believing that while the Brumbies did not do a whole lot wrong in losing to the Force last weekend, they need to become far more ruthless and persistent.

“We’ve got to do the grind,” Rea said.

“If we keep our heads down and do the work, we’ll get there but there is no magic way around it.”

by Buford Balony

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