Mohed Altrad and the South African version of MHR: “We always learn from his bullshit”

Mohed Altrad and the South African version of MHR: “We always learn from his bullshit”

Mohed Altrad est président du Montpellier Hérault Rugby depuis 2011. Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

President of the MHR since 2011, businessman Mohed Altrad looks back on the period when many South Africans were in the Montpellier workforce between 2015 and 2018.

How the Jake White opportunity presented itself ?

Following the complicated situation with Fabien Galthié, when he had just extended his contract for several years. It was November 2014. We desperately looked for a coach. Only Jake White was available. I didn't particularly know him, except that he won the World Cup in 2007.

What speech did you give him ? Did he have carte blanche ?

We were in a very bad situation, last in the Top 14. The speech was to save our skin. There was nothing else. Asking him to be in the top 6 would have been out of place. He saved us that year. From the start, he imposed his own system, based on the Springbok state of mind: defense and marking the opponent physically.

And in 2016, the story took a bad turn.

He first had a contract to finish the season and we continue the following season if things go well. We finally had to stop in a hurry because he made a mess of me. England were looking for a coach after sidelining Stuart Lancaster after the 2015 World Cup. Jake White presented himself, without telling me, as a candidate. We were playing a European Cup match at Harlequins. And he said to the press: "I want to coach England and win the World Cup." Why did he do that ? We&rsquo ;is spoken right after that. His defense was limited. It surprised me, especially since he’s a good guy. And he left.

Les Du Plessis or Steyn, that was before White arrived

We defined Montpellier players as Langueboks, did that annoy you ?

The criticism was half justified from the media. I think we weren't just targeting the Springboks. I think it was also a way to target me.

In hindsight, would you have accepted all his grievances ?

He didn't bring that many Springboks. He brought Nic White, the Australian. Otherwise, there was fly-half Demetri Catrakilis and a couple of props. The Du Plessis or Steyns, that was before White arrived.

Mohed Altrad and the South African version of MHR: “We always learn from his bullshit”

Jannie and Bismarck Du Plessis wore the Montpellier jersey for several years. Midi Libre – Max BERULLIER

However, many South Africans joined the MHR training center at that time.

The story of integrating South Africans into the training center also began before Jake White. It was my idea, but it didn’t really work out. I wanted to create a cultural mix. I created an association in South Africa: Altrad Legacy Badawi. Kids played there, which I paid for. Some came to the club. But it didn’t work because the cultural gap was too great.

This association still exists ?

No. She toured for 7-8 years and I stopped.

Mohed Altrad and the South African version of MHR: “We always learn from his bullshit”

After the Jake White era, you wanted to re-franchise your club.

Yes. Today, we are still in this logic. In any case, the Jiffs force us to. I recently spoke with Richard Cockerill about our recruitment strategy, the obligation not to have holes in the squad. When you are looking for a player, two parameters come into play: the financial side, and the jiff side.

If we go back to 2015, would you make the same choices ?

No, certainly not. But we can't rewrite history. If I hadn't done it, maybe the club would be more stable. But we have still progressed. By the way, the first European Challenge was with Jake White. Vern Cotter helped us progress. It was a bit more complicated with Xavier Garbajosa, especially since the duo didn't really work at the beginning with Vern, who became director of rugby. After that, you know the rest.

Read also: Rugby World Cup: discover the key figures of the qualification of the Blues for the quarter-finals

Did you feel a particular culture among South Africans ?

Many did not adapt to French culture. The fight during the warm-up between Bismarck Du Plessis and Momo Haouas is an example of this. Bismarck and Jannie, the two brothers, did not share the same vision as us. Jacques Du Plessis perhaps thought a little too much about bodybuilding. François Steyn was always ready on match days but it was complicated to motivate him to train during the week… hellip; Today, we have two left: Jan Serfontein and Janse Van Rensburg. Both are bilingual and thrive here.

And Johan Goosen ?

This is a huge failure. We took him out of his farm but he never managed to come back to 100%.

Did you learn anything from these episodes ?

As they say, you progress through your bullshit.

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