Vodacom Bulls director of rugby Jake White has defended his man-management skills, saying he prefers to be honest with players.
White was speaking with historian and author Dr Dean Allen in the final part of a series to raise funds for the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund.
During the wide-ranging talk on White’s career, the World Cup-winning coach opened up on criticism about his player-management skills.
White received particular criticism after his stint at Montpellier between 2015 and 2016, while Tendai Mtawarira wrote in his autobiography that White treated the players ‘like schoolboys’ during his tenure as Sharks director of rugby between 2013 and 2014.
However, White said that his honest approach with players could sometimes be misinterpreted as being harsh.
‘Man management is very important,’ White said. ‘I think that sometimes I get a bit disillusioned or despondent when I read that there is a lot in the media about the fact that I am hard on players.
‘Sometimes when you tell a player things that he doesn’t want to hear, it comes across as though you’re hard on him.
‘What I have learned as a coach, is rather just be honest with a player. When I was a kid, what I didn’t enjoy was that if a coach went around the block to tell me something as opposed to just being straight with me.’
White added that a big part of his philosophy was backing players when things were tough, while also making the difficult decisions that are vital in turning the fortunes of his teams around.
‘The reality about it is that you back people through the difficult times,’ White said. ‘It is easy to back them in the easy times. That’s the reality of life.
‘I remember being criticised for picking [Percy] Montgomery. I was criticised for picking Os du Randt. I was criticised for picking John Smit, who wasn’t the best hooker. The irony is that as we speak today, Os and John have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I am sure Monty will be. I knew that if you back them through the difficult times, they will back you through the good times. Monty kicked 32 kicks in the 2007 World Cup and missed one.
‘I am big on that and I am not prepared to negotiate on that. At the same time, that has got to be the truth. You have to be truthful to yourself, the team and have to make decisions that are important to win. When you make those decisions, sometimes they can be uncomfortable.
‘I am very big on relationships. Very big on trusting people that I put in those positions and very big on believing that when the pressure is on, I don’t have to look over my shoulder. The same applies to me. If I am with you, then I am with you. We have to show unity, especially in the difficult times.’
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