Brumbies coach Jake White. Photo: Getty Images
JAKE WHITE wants rugby union to seize its opportunity to gain more fans and grow the game while the AFL and NRL fight for clean reputations.
In the wake of the drug and match-fixing allegations crippling Australian sport, the ACT Brumbies coach believes Super Rugby is perfectly positioned to capitalise while its rival codes try to clear their names.
The Super Rugby season will begin this week with two Australian matches - one in Melbourne and one in Canberra.
And White, who led South Africa to a World Cup triumph in 2007, hopes the drama in other sports will help attract 20,000 fans to Canberra Stadium for his team's season-opener against the Queensland Reds on Saturday night.
So far rugby has emerged unscathed from the Australian Crime Commission's report which confirmed widespread illegal drug use in Australian sport. The NRL and the AFL have been copping the brunt of the criticism.
''This is a massive chance for rugby union,'' White told The Sunday Canberra Times.
''It's an opportunity for rugby union to get things in place. I'm not saying that no one in rugby union has ever [used drugs].
''I'm just saying rugby has a chance to make massive gains. Think about the father of a little boy and this guy is on drugs in rugby league or this guy's on drugs in the AFL, rugby isn't a bad sport for a kid to play if they come out of it on the right side of the tunnel.''
White is standing by his comments made last week that rugby's unpredictable nature made it hard to fix matches and that the sport had a ''massive clean slate'' with drugs.
While wary of beginning a cross-code war, he hoped rugby staying out of the controversy would boost crowd numbers and support as the Brumbies chase their first finals berth since 2004.
''Every player at the World Cup was tested, and I don't think anyone was reported for testing positive,'' White said. ''It's a great advert for rugby union in the world that we've managed to keep our sport drug-free.
''I can say that in rugby union, the one thing that is very big is anti-drugs. We in the capital get people tested on regular occasions. They literally [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency] come to us more times than they go to any other teams because they're also based in Canberra.
''That doesn't worry us because we know at the end of the day rugby union has a massive clean slate [with drugs].''