White inspires a revival in Australia’s capital

Four wins in 16 matches had left the twice champions a pitiful 13th in the 15-team competition and they limped to the season’s end with a record-equalling 41-7 defeat at the hands of the New South Wales Waratahs.


Little more than two years on and the team from Australia’s capital are just 80 minutes away from claiming the southern hemisphere’s provincial crown for a third time.

The odds may be stacked against them in Saturday’s final against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton but even a heavy defeat would not detract from the impact the World Cup-winning former Springboks coach has had in Canberra.

White, in his first head coaching job after leading South Africa to the 2007 World Cup, wasted no time in transforming the Brumbies off the pitch, as Wallabies prop Ben Alexander recalled this week.

“After the 2011 Super Rugby season, I did not imagine the Brumbies playing in a final two years later,” Alexander, one of the few survivors of that moribund campaign, told the Australian newspaper.

“But when I came back to the Brumbies after the World Cup, I could see changes in the work ethic and culture.

“I definitely knew then that during Jake White’s tenure at the Brumbies, we would be more than capable of getting to the final and winning it.”

White’s assistant coaches Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham provided a link to the Super Rugby successes of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Brumbies reached the final five times and won it in 2001 and 2004.


The transformation on the pitch was not as immediate but there was a gradual improvement over the 2012 season and the Brumbies came within a whisker of returning to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

A home defeat to the Auckland Blues in the last match of the campaign put paid to that hope but the foundation had been laid and local pride was restored with home and away wins over the Waratahs.

The Brumbies really hit their stride at the start of the 2013 season by winning their first four matches, including an away win over the Sharks in Durban.

A 14-12 win by a weakened side over the British and Irish Lions – the first by an Australian provincial team over the tourists since 1971 – further boosted the team’s credentials.

Call it good luck or clever planning but White was even able to ride the loss of Wallabies openside flanker David Pocock for the season with a knee injury by virtue of having 33-year-old George Smith on the bench.

The former Wallabies captain was given permission by his Japanese club to remain for the rest of the season and has had a glorious year, including a man of the match display in last week’s semi-final win over the Bulls in Pretoria.

That win bolstered White’s reputation for building teams that can do the unexpected but perhaps his greatest success in Canberra has been in identifying talent and developing players.

Although White missed out on the Wallabies job when Robbie Deans resigned in the wake of the Lions series defeat, Australian rugby is still benefiting from his work.

Only four Brumbies were included in the Australia party which departed for the 2011 World Cup. Last week, new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie named 12 in his first squad.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

Clarke shelves retirement to inspire Aus

Captain Michael Clarke says he has no plans to walk away from Test cricket despite the impending doom hanging over Australia’s Ashes campaign.


Clarke has declared he’s in it for the long haul and is determined to lift Australia’s young and inexperienced side out of the mire and back to the summit.

The skipper’s ailing back has prompted speculation he could announce his retirement as early as this summer, following the return Ashes series in Australia.

But Clarke, 32, says his back isn’t affecting his performance and retirement talk is simply not true – hinting he intends to play on until his mid 30s.

Heading into the third Test at Old Trafford starting on Thursday, Australia are staring some unwanted history squarely in the face.

Losing at Manchester will consign them to seven straight Test losses – equal with their worst ever run.

It will also mean the urn stays with England for a third straight series, the first time that’s happened since the 1950s.

As skipper, Clarke knows his name will forever sit alongside those records should they come to pass.

But turning history back in Australia’s favour is what’s motivating him to play on.

“It’s extra drive I guess. It certainly gets you out of the bed in the morning. Generally around five o’clock,” Clarke said.

“I’m not retiring in the near future.

“I love the game as much now as I ever have that’s for sure. I have no intention to walk away from this game right now.

“I’m 32 and not 36 so luckily I’ve got a few years before I have that discussion.

“I’m in it to achieve all I can as captain of this team and as a player. I feel like my game still has a lot of improvement left in it.

“That’s why I come to training and work my backside off every day.

“When I think I can’t get any better and I have nothing else to give to the team then my time is finished.”

Clarke knows his team are up against it at Old Trafford.

The pitch is dry and mysteriously patchy, and he recognises his team have struggled both with spin bowling and facing spin since Shane Warne’s retirement.

Australia have won just one from their past 11 Ashes Tests on UK soil.

But Clarke says the climactic finish at Trent Bridge in the first Test, proved England aren’t unbeatable.

Australia aren’t proud of the losing streak that’s extended back to the first Test in India earlier this year, and there’s only one way to rewrite the wrongs.

“You have to try not to think about it,” he said.

“That record is irrelevant. Unfortunately, or fortunately, records are made to be broken. This is one we don’t want to break. I was part of the team that won 16 in a row, so I guess I’m seeing both sides.

“We’ve got to play better cricket but like I said after Lord’s I’m confident we can turn it around, I really am.

“I’m confident we can win these next three Test matches and win the series. I know it seems a long way away to a lot of people … but if we play our best cricket we’ll give it a good shake.”

Likely Australian team: Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke (capt), Steve Smith, David Warner, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.

Likely England team: Alastair Cook (capt), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen/James Taylor, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson

‘We heard screams… then it hit’: Nepal avalanche survivors

Huddled in their sleeping bags, the climbers first heard the avalanche roar towards them and then the sound of screaming before being swept hundreds of metres down the slopes of “Killer Mountain”.


Survivors of the weekend tragedy on Nepal’s Manaslu mountain, which killed at least nine people, said the scene resembled a war zone, with an entire camp destroyed by the wall of snow.

“We were sleeping in our tent after having dinner, when all of a sudden we heard the noise of other climbers screaming. Within moments, we were hit by the avalanche,” said Andreas Reiter, one of the trek’s survivors.

Reiter was among a group of European adventurers who were near the peak of the 8,156-metre (26,759-foot) Manaslu when the avalanche struck. They were asleep. It was 4:00 am on Sunday.

“I witnessed one of the team members die,” the 26-year-old German, who has broken his back, was quoted as telling The Himalayan Times as he recovered in hospital in Kathmandu.

Rescuers scaled down the search Monday for two French climbers and a Canadian still missing on Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest peak and one of the most challenging.

Pravin Nepal, an orthopaedic surgeon at Norvic Hospital in Kathmandu, told AFP Reiter’s spinal cord was broken.

“He is undergoing an MRI test. He can speak and move his hands and legs.”

Another German being treated at the hospital was being treated for frostbite, the medic said.

Also among the survivors was Glen Plake, 48, a three-time freestyle skiing world champion from California. He described the site of the avalanche as “a war zone”.

“It was a major, major accident… There were 25 tents at camp three and all of them were destroyed,” he told the Epic TV video subscription service.

“Twelve tents at camp two were banged up and moved around.”

Plake told the company’s blog he was reading when he and a companion with whom he was sharing his tent heard a roar.

“Greg looked at me and said ‘that was a big gust of wind’, then a second later, ‘No, that was an avalanche’.

“Then it hit us. I was swept 300 metres over a serac and down the mountain and came to a stop still in my sleeping bag, still inside the tent, still with my headlamp on.”

Christian Trommsdorff, of France’s national union of mountain guides, said the avalanche happened at about 7,400 metres and carried away part of camp number three at 6,800 metres.

Expedition leader Garrett Madison said he and his team were sleeping at camp two, further down the mountain, when they were awoken by “snow, wind and ice penetrating our tents”.

“Fortunately everybody in our group was okay. However when we climbed up to camp three shortly after to investigate we discovered the debris from a massive avalanche and found many climbers in distress,” Madison wrote on the Alpine Ascents blog.

“During the rescue and recovery in the following hours we were able to coordinate and assist evacuating over a dozen climbers on 10 helicopter flights from just below camp three.”

Manaslu is nicknamed “Killer Mountain” by locals because a series of snowslides have claimed the lives of scores of mountaineers since it was first conquered in 1956.

The latest deaths mean at least 62 people have died, according to an AFP tally.

It saw its worst disaster when a South Korean expedition was buried by snow while attempting to climb the northeast face in 1972. The 15 dead included 10 Sherpas and the Korean expedition leader.

India polio-free one year on

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The mission for polio vaccinators around the world remains a dangerous, even deadly, one despite today marking the one-year anniversary since the last reported case of polio in India.


Polio is still endemic in three countries, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and massive recent efforts have seen a decline to some 200 global cases reported in 2012.

However, as long as there is a single case, children in all countries remain at risk from polio unless they are regularly vaccinated.

But it’s those countries with epidemic polio that are the biggest challenges to vaccination, with misinformation creating distrust of vaccinators.

In February, a gunman suspected of belonging to a radical Islam sect shot and killed about nine women on a vaccination drive in northern Nigeria.

Clerics there reportedly claimed the vaccines were part of a western plot to sterilise young girls.

Another nine Pakistani health workers were killed last year, in a country that is seeing soaring polio rates due to growing militant attacks, despite historically successful attempts to vaccinate.

UNICEF is the world’s largest distributor of vaccines to the developing world and Australian Rod Curtis is the head of UNICEF’s Polio Eradication Unit in India.

He says polio vaccination programs have not always been welcome there.

“It wasn’t always the case, ten years ago we had vaccination teams having bricks and acid thrown at them,” he said.

“We worked extremely closely with Muslim leaders and religious institutions such as universities who tested the vaccines and put out statements on our behalf that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

But religious opposition is not the only reason why children are not receiving vaccination.

“[In] Northern Nigeria for instance, there are serious issues with the vaccination campaign in the sense that there have been whole villages that have not been on a micro plan – we are starting to institute house-to-house micro planning built on the Indian system.”

Mr Curtis said that with the remaining isolated patches of polio, we are now the “closest we’ve ever been to polio eradication”.

A two-part documentary “Cold Chain Mission”, featuring UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor starts on tonight on SBS ONE.


The polio program in India today launches its five-day National Immunisation Days program to immunise 172 million children under the age of five against polio.

Those wishing to donate can visit: 南宁桑拿网,www.unicef.org.au/polio

40 Indonesians missing after boat sinks

Rescuers were searching for 40 missing Indonesians including women and children after a boat carrying them home to celebrate the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan sank off Malaysia.


Two ships, four speedboats and two helicopters have been dispatched to scour the seas off Malaysia’s southern Johor state to look for the missing, said Amran Daud, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

“Our operations are ongoing but we have found nothing yet,” Amran told AFP.

The boat, thought to be carrying 44 passengers, sank in heavy seas Thursday night around 13 nautical miles (24 kilometres) off the coast, he said, adding four were rescued on Friday.

It is thought the Indonesians chose to travel on the boat because they were working illegally in Malaysia and wished to bypass border controls on their trip home.

The boat sank roughly three hours into its journey from Tanjung Sedili on the state’s east coast to Indonesia’s Batam island with its passengers hoping to return for Eid al-Fitr, the most important Muslim holiday, Amran said.

“The condition of the boat was believed to be questionable,” Amran said, adding that authorities were still investigating the cause of the wooden boat’s sinking.

Three of the survivors were rescued by passing fishermen, while another was saved by authorities who started search and rescue efforts after being alerted by the fishermen.

“Only four of those on board were rescued by fishermen and MMEA after floating 15 hours in the sea,” Amran said.

Another maritime official, Hairi Nizam, added those rescued were found clinging on to plastic drums in the water. None of them were wearing life jackets.

After being sent to hospital for treatment, the four men, aged between 26 and 31, were in custody while the incident was being investigated, Hairi said.

Shipping accidents off Malaysia’s coast are common as thousands of people from poorer regional neighbours, such as Indonesia and Myanmar, risk journeys in flimsy boats to work illegally in the relatively affluent country.

They fill low-paying jobs shunned by locals on plantations, construction sites and in factories.

Many Indonesians try to leave the country during Ramadan to return home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families. The holiday begins on Thursday.

Authorities said last month they were beefing up patrols to prevent illegal immigrants from making the sea voyage across the waterway separating Malaysia and Indonesia.

Aegile Fernandez, an official with migrant labour rights group Tenaganita, urged authorities to implement “concrete measures” to stop such journeys, such as further stepping up patrols and charging boatmen and any official found taking bribes to allow them.

“It’s been happening year after year, and we have not learned from this lesson… You should not close one eye,” she told AFP. “They (the migrants) are in a very vulnerable situation.”

Malaysia is also a transit point for asylum seekers fleeing unrest in their home countries, such as Myanmar.

Many of them sneak into Malaysia via boat or land and then try to reach Australia in boats via Indonesia in the hope of a better life there.

Australia announced a new policy last month to send asylum-seekers to its Pacific neighbour Papua New Guinea to discourage such journeys after a record number of boatpeople arrived in 2013 — more than 17,300 — and a spate of drownings.

An Indonesian woman died and seven people went missing after their wooden boat overturned in mid-July, also off Johor state and heading to Batam island.

The boat, which was smuggling them out of the country, suffered an engine failure. Twenty-seven Indonesians were rescued.