Jake White says part of his plan as director of rugby at the Vodacom Bulls will be to bring through players who could play for the Springboks in the future.
White was speaking with historian and author Dr Dean Allen on Thursday evening in the final part of a series that was a fundraiser for the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund.
Following White’s arrival as head coach and director of rugby, the Bulls have been very busy with restricting both their playing and coaching staff. Gio Aplon, Travis Ismaiel Nizaam Carr, Walt Steenkamp, Sintu Manjezi and Arno Botha are among the players who have arrived, while Joey Mongalo and Russel Winter have both been hired as the team’s new defence and forwards coaches respectively.
However, White has also turned his attention to the Bulls’ youth structures, hiring successful Grey College coach Wessel du Plessis as the new head of junior rugby, while convincing the likes of Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenkamp and Muller Uys to sign contract extensions. Other promising young talents – fullback David Kriel and hooker Schalk Erasmus – have arrived from Western Province.
During the wide-ranging discussion on White’s career, the focus turned to the way forward for SA Rugby under director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. White said that while he has been in contact with Erasmus about getting a few high-profile players back from overseas, he also sees it as his responsibility to bring potential Springboks through the Bulls’ youth structures.
‘I have chatted to Rassie about contracting,’ White said. ‘Obviously people are aware that there is PONI money – for players of national interest – and theoretically, SA Rugby and through Rassie will decide to give some top-up money for players that you want to get into your system. Guys like Arno Botha, Nizaam Carr, are the guys that I am busy trying to get back to South Africa.
‘In terms of the way forward, I have realised that you need to work closely with SA Rugby. You need to understand the alignment from the unions to the head office.
‘I also think part of my job is to produce as many youngsters as we can. That’s part of what our plan is as a board and as a coaching staff. To get some youngsters through our system to play for the Boks.’
Having started his career as a schoolmaster at Parktown Boys’ High and Jeppe High, White said that he has been able to form connections that are still very strong, despite the fact that he has been outside of the country for the last six years.
‘Although I haven’t been here, I am still very connected to people,’ White said. ‘I was a schoolmaster for 10 years as you know. The ironic thing is that after I got back in the Bulls setup, when I phone a school and ask them about a player, generally what I find is that the guy that is the headmaster was either at university with me or he coached with or against me at school. The 1st XV coach at a school is maybe a guy I coached at school or I coached against him as a schoolboy.
‘So even though I haven’t been in the country, I still feel I have a strong connection into who the kid is, who the guy is coming through, what he is like, what school he went to, what level he played at school, what he is like as a person, what his parents are like. I think that is important when you recruiting a player, that you get a sense of that.’