EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with Jake White
LISTEN as Jake White makes some eye-opening disclosures to @rugby365com‘s Jan de Koning, revealing which players he might be targeting to help revive the ailing Bulls.
Coming in as Director of Rugby-cum-coach of an ailing team is already challenging enough.
To further complicate his assignment, White starts his new position in very unique circumstances, having to work during the COVID-19-enforced lockdown.
Yet, true to his nature, he has found a way to make it work for him.
“I would have been in the office, meeting with players and coaches,” White told @rugby365com, adding: “I would be on the field and get a better gut feeling and a visual feeling for what is happening at the franchise.”
Instead, he is just chatting to agents and coaches from his lounge, also looking at footage and stats.
“I am trying to see where we can improve, [doing it all] from my home.”
He also revealed that not only will he be a full-time coach next year, but as Director of Rugby, he will also be ‘hands-on’ this year – if rugby resumes in 2020.
“I will be on the field [this year] and I will also be coaching.
“What I am doing now is planning.”
He revealed that some players are finishing their contracts. Of those, some are looking to get their contracts extended, some are looking to go overseas and some players currently abroad are looking at returning to South Africa.
“This is the time that agents would be the busiest.
“I am looking at our player roster and seeing which players we need to keep and which players we need to let go.”
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White, 56, pointed to the fact that South Africa now has salary caps and you can only have 45 professional players per franchise.
Those 45 players have to fit into a salary cap, which means White simply can’t sign every big-name player there is.
“It is not a pleasant situation, with the coronavirus, but it is a time to plan,” he said.
“We also have to make sure there is a succession plan, with the junior players.
“We also have to see which senior players we must keep and which senior player we can let go.”
He said there will always be players overseas that you could look at.
“Some of them, with the pandemic, would have had a rethink whether they want to be so far away from their families. Some of them might take pay cuts and decide it is better living in South Africa.
“It will open opportunities for the franchises.
“I am lucky enough to have coached around the world and I know which players could add value to the Bulls – guys like Jacques du Plessis, Henry Immelman and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg at Montpellier.
“There is no reason why other players can’t add value.
“We can’t bring every player back.
“The salary cap is what it is and part of the reason for the salary cap is to bring through home-grown players.”
Asked about his coaching style, he said while he has evolved as a coach, he believes strongly in the basics of the game.
“I am never going to move away from the key principles.
“Any successful team – whether it is the Crusaders, All Blacks or Springboks – have those things. They are a big tight five, big strong set-piece, great defence, great discipline and cohesion in the team.
“Sometimes there has been unfair criticism about this playing style being very South Africa, very conservative.
“It is ironic in 2007, when we were the best team in the world and we were conservative, Bryan Habana won the Player of the Year award and scored the most tries in the World Cup.
“It is not too bad if you are seen as a conservative coach and your wing is the best player in the world.”
He said there are certain elements from the Japan game (where he coached Verblitz) and from the Australian game (where he coached the Brumbies) that he can add to the basics and natural talent of the South African players.
“If I add that all into a Bulls set-up, but never moving away from the key principles, I am sure we will get success.
“The one thing the Bulls and South Africa have is lots and lots of talent.
“I am going to make sure we get those results, the success.”
White pointed to the quality of the players the Bulls have lost after last year’s World Cup as a contributing factor to their struggles this year.
The loss of players like Rudolph Snyman, Lodewyk de Jager, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Brits and Handre Pollard.
“All credit to the Bulls board,” he said, adding: “They decided they want to get those things right and I am very honoured that they have asked me to come in.
“I have no doubt we can get those things in place again.”