VIDEO: Jake - It is all my fault
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but his track record can’t be questioned and now he has added a measure of ‘brutal honesty’ to his resume.
Following his team’s 33-41 Currie Cup loss to Western Province this past Friday, the World Cup-winning former Springbok coach became ‘philosophical’ about the state of the union at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls are on a four-match losing streak in the United Rugby Championship and have lost both their Currie Cup matches this season.
They have also lost their last four matches at Loftus, once a fortress – going down 19-23 to the Stormers and 25-29 to the Lions in the URC; while they suffered a humiliating 15-63 loss to the defending champion Pumas in the opening round of the Currie Cup, followed by this past Friday’s loss to Western Province at the Pretoria venue.
“I am here [in the media briefing] as the Director of Rugby,” the 59-year-old said.
“This week I took [control of] this group of players,” he said of the selection for the Currie Cup loss to WP, adding: “I wanted to use it as an opportunity for next week [a crunch URC Round 126 encounter with Irish giants Ulster at Ravenhill in Belfast].”
He said it would be “unfair” for new Currie Cup coach Edgar Marutlulle to take the heat for the loss.
White said he would not make any excuses, but will reflect “philosophically” about the recent horror run of results.
“As a union, we have been dominating for the last three seasons – at junior and senior level, [in the] Currie Cup, [reaching a [URC Final], Super Rugby Unlocked.
“I sit here and think, what has gone wrong?”
He admitted his life-threatening illness in December meant he had become “disconnected” from the group.
(Article continues below Part One of Jake White’s interview with @king365ed)
“I thought, and this was my call, changing the team, giving some guys time off – [because] last year was just too tough on everyone, as much as it worked.
“Those decisions are mine.
“People would say: ‘Why don’t you keep the same group together? It will give you some continuity’.
“There is never an exact science.
“When you get into a spiral, winning or losing, players in any sport might not admit it, but they do go into their shells. It happens.
“It’s definitely not where we want to be and it is not what we coach.
“This is the first time as a group that we are under a little bit of pressure.
“It’s a different pressure to what we have ever experienced as a group.
“We have to make sure we get through this. It doesn’t mean it will change in one week. It just means we have to get through it as a union.”
He said he hopes the benefit of fielding his URC team in the Currie Cup will get the ‘ring rust’ out of the system ahead pf next week’s trip to Ireland.
“Now the guys have some contact under their belts and that’s going to be another tough game,” he said of the trip to Ravenhill.
“I am the guy in charge, I have to make decisions.
“Most of the decisions I have made in the last couple of years have worked in our favour.
“Maybe if I was with the team the whole time I would have changed my mind and decided to play the same team every week and see if we can ‘vasbyt‘.
“There’s a long-term picture for me.
“I am trying to develop a team.
“Philosophically, we lost Marcell Coetzee, Walt Steenkamp, Madosh Tambwe, Arno Botha.
“We didn’t have Canan [Moodie] and Kurt-Lee [Arendse] today [Friday].
“I know the other teams also have to deal with that, but maybe the significant losses we had in terms of our personnel had a much bigger impact on our group of players.
“As I said, I am trying to be philosophical and work this out in my head: ‘How you can go from so dominant and so good, so brave to play, into being at times, looking incohesive, something is missing?’.
“I have to find out what it is we are missing and that is part of my job, to make sure we have to try and get it right.”
White admitted he will take the criticism on the chin, but promised he will continue searching for answers to ‘make the Bulls great again’.
“There is nothing I can say,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “The reality is when you are on a roll and everything is going well for you, then you get massive amounts of confidence and when it’s not going well, then you struggle.
“We have supporters who want to win and we want to make them proud as well.
“We also have to be man enough to admit that decisions we have made, and I’m the guy that made those decisions.
“They have either worked or they haven’t worked.
“The only way we will find out is when we get to the end of all the campaigns – Currie Cup, URC or European Cup – we will have to sit back and say: ‘What we did wrong?’
“If there are things I did wrong, we will have to improve it.
“Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong.
“It’s not over yet.
“We still have [games against] Ulster, Zebre and Leinster [coming up].
“We have to try and make sure we get results to get into the [URC] playoffs.
“We have a massive [European Cup Round of 16] game against Toulouse, massive game.
“[They are] historically the strongest Champions Cup side that has ever played.
“So there is going to be a great deal of learning to happen, winning or losing.
“I am just very lucky that I have people above me and around me who understand that sport works like this.
“It’s not a pleasant time for anybody.
“That’s why I want to reinforce that is why I came [to this media briefing]. I can’t expect a coach who had nothing to do with this group of players this week [to take the blame], just because I wanted to use this week to prepare for next week and the importance of what is ahead.”