By Gary Lemke
Luke Watson has launched an astonishing attack on Jake White, saying the Springbok coach has "lost the integrity, honour and pride that the Bok should be about".
In the September edition of Sports Illustrated, now on sale, Watson says he believes the reason for his constant shunning by White "stems from a deeper malice from his Under-21 rugby days and the political background of his father, Cheeky".
Watson leads table-topping Currie Cup champions Western Province into battle against the Pumas at Newlands on Saturday.
The 22-year-old says he and White haven't spoken since 2002, when Watson was the captain of the national Under-19 team and White was coach of the SA Under-21 team that went on to win the world title. He claims the Bok coach regarded him as a "disruptive" influence.
White has consistently claimed that his reasons for not including Watson in the Bok set-up are purely rugby-related. The accusations are:
1: Watson and Schalk Burger cannot play in the same back row;
2: Watson is not a lineout option - his height (1.85m) was said to be a liability;
3: There's no such thing as a fetcher - a few months ago White famously said a fetcher "was his son when he fetches a beer on a Sunday";
4: Transformation has forced Watson's exclusion at the expense of Solly Tyibilika - though he later denied this.
"He said the transformation comment was taken out of context and that he was misquoted," Watson tells Sports Illustrated. "Whatever, man. He's had a problem with me ever since I left school."
Watson is particularly vociferous on the issue that he's not lineout material. "Jake said I'm too short and I cut out lineout options.
That's despite George Smith, Serge Betsen and Neil Back having revolutionised the modern game. How many lineout balls have they taken in their careers?" For the record, Australia's Smith stands at 1.80m, the Frenchman Betsen is 1.83m and England's Back is 1.78m.
The magazine says Watson believes White's attempts to justify his continued Bok exile are malicious.
"I have heard directly from people who have coached me that Jake believes I come with too much political baggage because of my father," Watson says. "That it's not good in a team environment. The type of political baggage I come with is normally held in very high regard, as my father was a liberation fighter.
"If Jake White doesn't agree with that sort of legacy and background, then he's against everything that equality and unity stand for. He's basically saying that what my father did was the wrong thing."
Watson is quoted as saying White holds a prejudice against his father. "He does have a problem with my father, despite not ever having met him. He's never said two words to the man."
In the article, Cheeky states that the issue stems from Watson's days as a schoolboy at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth.
However, while Watson himself has not given up on playing for the Springboks, he remains critical of the current coach. "Obviously I would love to play for the Springboks, but I do not want to find myself in a position where I'm compromising my beliefs in equality, integrity and honour to achieve that goal.
"Jake has lost the integrity, honour and pride that the Boks should be about. An example is where he attacked Schalk Brits for mentioning the possibility of playing overseas, and a year or so later he himself tried to hold SA Rugby to ransom with an overseas offer."
Watson has emerged as a strong leader both on and off the field in a WP side that has beaten the Bulls (away) and the Cheetahs in rising to the top of the Currie Cup standings.
Full story in Sports Illustrated - now on sale at R26.95