Vodacom Bulls president Willem Strauss says the appointment of Jake White is seen as another key component of an important turnaround plan for the franchise, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In an exclusive Zoom chat with SARugbymag.co.za, Strauss touched on how the Bulls are coping in the face of the coronavirus crisis, while also looking to some of the future plans for the former three-time Vodacom Super Rugby champions.
One of the big developments in recent times has been the appointment of White as director of rugby, although he will also take up the head coaching duties.
The former World Cup-winning coach has been unable to hit the ground running in Pretoria due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, but he has been conducting extensive planning and recruitment behind the scenes.
While White remains a polarising figure in some rugby circles, Strauss explained exactly what the thought process was behind his appointment, which follows last year’s significant announcement that billionaires Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert (via Remgro) had come in as equal majority shareholders of the Blue Bulls company (37% each).
‘When we started with new management at the Bulls about 18-20 months ago, we had some certain objectives we wanted to achieve. Two of them were done in the last six months – one was to secure our financial future, and the other was to recruit a world-class director of rugby or coach,’ Strauss said.
‘So we completed the deal with Remgro and Mr Motsepe, and then when Jake was available I had no doubt that this was the sort of calibre coach we wanted to get involved in our structures. I don’t need to go into his record, which speaks for itself. He has made his mistakes, like everyone, but he’s learned from those and gained a lot of exposure and experience coaching around the world.
‘In my first discussions with him I just realised this was the guy, he has a clear strategy and vision. He has no doubt about what he wants to achieve and how he wants to achieve it, and with what personnel. I think it is one of our better appointments …’
In recent times, there also have been plenty of rumours about players movements, with several members of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby squad expected to make an exit.
Meanwhile, White has been actively looking to recruit players who he believes will fit into his ‘vision’ for the future, with the signing of former Springbok prop Marcel van der Merwe from Toulon already confirmed.
‘The one thing I’ve seen from Jake is that when he recruits certain players, it’s with a particular plan in mind,’ Strauss commented. ‘He seems to be able to build a successful team, and we’ve seen that. I’m very, very excited and positive about the impact he can have on our franchise. There’s no doubt about that.’