Former Springbok coach and new Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White opens up in the third of three wide-ranging interviews.
White is well aware of the challenge facing him in guiding the Vodacom Bulls
back to the glory days of this proud union. But it’s one he is relishing as he
likens the team to some of the greatest in world sport.
such as the LA Lakers or Real Madrid or Juventus or Liverpool are household
names. And when you talk rugby, the Vodacom Bulls are right up there. It’s a
great privilege for me to join them,” White said as he prepares for the next phase in his coaching career at the helm
of the Pretoria-based side.
choosing to accept this position, or any of the coaching positions he’s taken
throughout his career, White says it’s always a very personal decision for him.
finished with the Springboks and I was looking for a job, I was offered
several. But I was always very careful to only join a club where I thought
there was a synergy between my skill and the club’s DNA. I can’t just go to a
club and coach for the sake of coaching.
Brumbies, they were champions and a club with a great history and reputation
around the world for the style of rugby they play. With Toyota Verblitz in
Japan, they play in green and gold jerseys just like the Springboks. They started
doing that in the 1950s already because they wanted to be like the Springboks.
So there was a massive synergy about me going there.”
he joins the Bulls with the task of rebuilding this team’s rugby glory.
But while White accepts that throughout his career he’s been perceived as the coach
to call when a team needs rebuilding, he’d love to tick the one box that has as
yet escaped him.
would’ve loved to have joined the Bulls when they were champions. One
of my great wishes would’ve been to experience what it’s like to take over a
championship team and continuing that success. Often what’s tended to happen in
my coaching career is that people have seen me as a kind of revival doctor that
comes in and turns teams around. I suppose that’s true. But I’ve never been
fortunate to join a team that’s been dominating rugby at their level.”
says his immediate task with the Bulls will be simply to listen to the
first thing I do is let the players talk. I let them explain where they are.
You need to listen now. It’s not a case of just coming in saying this is what
needs to happen. Now is the most important time to listen to the players.
They’re in the situation and you’re coming from outside.
clarity in times like this when you’re building up a team again. I try to get
each player focused again on what he is there for and what he needs to do,
because then all the parts make sense and everyone fits in and things start
coming together. So listening and then clarity are important for me now.
they’ve told you, then the real test starts. Once they’ve told you as the coach
what they think, then it’s up to them whether or not they want to change it.”
that White has some very clear ideas as to what he expects from players, and
what he values in a player in one of his teams.
work and giving one hundred per cent are a given when I look at a player.
That’s never been a bonus for me. But the value system of being honest and also
showing that through tough times you’re the right guy – that’s important to me.
my team talks I say, that when you pick your team it’s not the 23 that you need
to ask if they are happy. It’s number 24 whose been left out. As a coach you
have to be honest and tell number 24 why he’s not playing. The same challenge
goes to players. It’s easy when we start with a squad for a player to tell you
‘I’m in’ and ‘I’m your man’ and ‘I’ll show you’, but those players generally
show their true colours when they’re not in. Then you start to see who the real
for that player who is consistent, who shows you that through the tough times
as well as the good that he’s loyal and he’s your man. That far supersedes
anything else for me. I’m not saying you can’t be unhappy or upset. That’s just
human. But I value a player who is consistent in that. You can’t be one player
when things are going well, but when they’re not you’re the worst guy to have
in the team.”
passion for rugby and coaching is undeniable, having taken him around the world
and onto the biggest stages in the game. Now he heads to one of the most
historic unions in South African rugby.
And when he’s
asked if he had just one more day to spend in rugby, and where in the world that
would be, his answer reflects far more of the masterful tactician he really is
than he is willing to admit.