DAVID Pocock couldn’t have known it at the time, but as long as four years ago Jake White earmarked the flanker as a player he had to coach.
Barely on Robbie Deans’ radar, Pocock was a bright-eyed 20-year-old relishing his third season as a Super Rugby player at the Western Force.
“I met Jake in 2008 when we were both speaking at a function before the Wallabies played in Perth,” Pocock said. “I wasn’t in the squad at that stage but me and Jake got on well.”
And almost four years to the day, White has got his man.
That chance meeting between the World Cup-winning Springboks coach and Pocock was the catalyst for the Brumbies’ biggest signing since… well, since ever.
“While we haven’t had a great lot of contact, obviously we’ve crossed paths and we’ve had a couple of conversations this year,” Pocock said. “He didn’t put any pressure on me and made it easy in the end.
“And that was definitely a big part of my decision. Jake has obviously made some changes at the Brumbies and everyone I’ve spoken to has enjoyed themselves this year. I’m pretty excited to be playing for him now.”
Pocock finalised a three-year deal with the ACT side yesterday after months of deliberation. In the end, he says, the decision was made for him.“There’s the coaching team with Jake, Laurie Fisher, Stephen Larkham, Tony Thorpe and then guys like George Gregan helping out – it’s a very appealing set-up for a player,” Pocock said. “And it’s a young group of guys who are not only committed, but have signed on for the next couple of years. Everyone is there for the right reasons and to stick to Jake’s long-term plan. That’s pretty exciting for me. And it’s a great way to challenge myself as a player.”
Pocock spent seven years at the Force, withstanding the Firepower debacle, John Mitchell’s fall-out with club and players and the consequent departures of Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and James O’Connor. The departure of Richard Graham to the Reds mid-season and Nathan Sharpe’s retirement signalled the death knell. And when the side failed to lure Michael Cheika for 2013 Pocock felt he had little choice.
“That was frustrating [not being able to lure Wallabies and a head coach],” Pocock said. “That was one of a number of things that helped me make my mind up. Every player wants to win a Super Rugby title and while the Brumbies know there is a still a lot of hard work to do, they showed in one year the potential there is.
“There’s plenty of improvement to go but they’ve got that in them.”
Add Pocock’s experience and guile to a young and promising Brumbies side with a World Cup-winning coach and the ingredients are there for the nation’s capital to succeed. Almost the entire playing group is secured until the end of 2014 - the coach, too. Pocock thinks this will breed success.
“The Brumbies have done so well getting so many players into the Wallabies squad when so many people didn’t give the side a chance at the start of the season,” Pocock said. “I’m pretty excited about playing there but I think the last two Super Rugby finals on the weekend showed there’s a lot of improvement needed for all the Australian provinces. “That Chiefs game was so good. It was awesome to watch. That’s the level everyone will be chasing.”