The South Africa coach, Jake White, looks to have edged ahead by a nose in the "sack race" with England's beleaguered Andy Robinson. A string of defeats for both teams has left Robinson and White in precarious positions and yesterday, according to reports from South Africa, it emerged that White has been summoned home before the end of the tour.
If England were to lose in tomorrow's second and final Test of a miserable autumn, it could well signal the end of Robinson's reign, but until he has submitted a written report to the director of rugby, Rob Andrew, and a panel has reviewed England's performances in all four Tests there will be no handing out of P45s.
But White's summons suggests that he is on the brink and likely to be the first to be sacked. In an unprecedented move, White has been ordered to appear before a meeting of the President's Council of the South African Rugby Union on 29 November - four days before the last Springbok tour match against a World XV in Leicester. White will fly home to South Africa on 28 November, attend the meeting, before returning to England on 30 November.
The SARU president, Oregan Hoskins, admitted the meeting did relate to the vote of no confidence put forward by the Blue Bulls last week. "He will obviously have some things to explain to the President's Council," said Hoskins.
White has been under increasing pressure after a record 49-0 loss to Australia was followed - after home Tri-Nations wins over the Wallabies and New Zealand - by a another record 32-15 loss to Ireland at the start of the current tour.
White was handicapped from the outset by the decision to leave behind a clutch of first-choice players to give them a break from Test rugby in the build-up to the World Cup and also to see what strength in depth South Africa had. But last week's 23-21 defeat against England merely fanned the flames of discontent with White's performances as coach.
Robinson's future is looking like being decided early next month, after the review has been carried out, but at least England ended a record-equalling run of seven defeats with that win last week. And for what it is worth, Robinson does at least have the backing of his coaching team. John Wells, who is responsible for the forwards said yesterday: "For a guy put under some massive pressure in the job environment and in the media, he has dealt with it all very well."
On the field, Robinson's rookie centre pairing of Newcastle's Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait can expect to come under a lot of pressure, with Jean de Villiers and the debutant flanker Kabamba Floors promising to give them a hard ride. De Villiers said: "We are focused on what we have to do to stop them."Reuse content