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White planning for big 2005

Jan de Koning

South Africa, the Tri-Nations champions and the International Rugby Board (IRB) Team of the Year for 2004, will face a monumental challenge in 2005 to improve on the achievements of the past year.
White, addressing a media conference after the team's arrival back on South Africa after finishing the tour with a win over Argentina 39-7 at Velez Sarsfield Stadium in Buenos Aires, said "the players know now they can do it [win at Test level] and there is no need for the players to doubt themselves anymore".
Starting the year at No.6 on the IRB rankings, following the disasters of the 2003 World Cup, the Springboks managed to move to within striking distance of third-placed England after their 39-7 win over Argentina at the weekend.
South Africa face France twice in June, then Australia four times as well as New Zealand twice (in the Tri-Nations). That is followed by another taxing year-end tour that include another match against France, followed by Tests against Ireland and Wales.
"You couldn't have a more difficult season if you try," White told the media at Cape Town international.
"But we've got a base to work from now - nine victories from 13 Tests in 2004 isn't a bad return.
"We've got the best team in the world [as per the IRB awards], the best player in the world [flanker Schalk Burger] and everything is in place.
What we need to do is find ways to ensure that this group of players, who played for us this year, can be fit and ready to play Test rugby next year. We have to ensure that we not only maintain our standard produced this year, but we lift our performances.
"This year nobody gave us a chance, because we came last in the Tri-Nations for so many years. They maybe saw it as just another fixture against South Africa. We won the Tri-Nations by winning two of our of four games, but if I look at it, we nearly won all four games.
"They will certainly be aware of this (that we nearly beat them away from home as well) and I'm expecting them to be a lot more determined to beat us next year.
"Therefore the challenge is with us - we can't just sit back. We have to go up."
White also spoke at length about continuity in selection and making sure he keeps his 'successful' squad together for next year.
The vexing issues of player burnout and the need for a longer "rest" period for players also featured often in the questions from the media and White revealed that they have come up with an ambitious plan to avoid this and ensure that the Springboks challenge for that No.1 world ranking.
This plan includes an in-depth study, already conducted by the team's physical trainers, and a presentation to the board of SA Rugby, where they hope to get the "buy-in" from all the provinces to ensure the players are better looked after.
This study and presentation, conducted with the assistance of SA Board member and Springbok team manager Arthob Petersen, will hopefully ensure the Springboks are better conditioned and "bigger, faster and stronger" during 2005.
White said so far he has only spoken to Stormers coach Gert Smal, one of his assistant coaches at the Bok team, but he plans to chat to all the other coaches as well.
White also revealed that during his discussions with Wallaby coach Eddie Jones and former England coach Clive Woodward it was revealed that a large chunk of their budgets were spent on the conditioning of the players.
The Bok coach also felt there is a need to look at individual players when deciding how much rugby a player should play and how much rest he needs.
The Bok coach said he was more than happy with what his team achieved in 2004, but in order to go up that level they will have to produce some new ideas. "You can't change the way a team plays in just one week," he said. "Ireland studied us for 10 weeks, analysed and dissected all our Tests. We can't go and change our game in just a week or two.
"We'll look at some new things [tactics] for next year and we'll try some things in the Super 12. We have to bring in those new trends at the beginning of the year and ensure we can then use them in the Tests."

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