Rob Flude

Jake White on life Down Under

2012-07-04 12:00
Sport24 columnist Rob Flude (File)
There’s something very intellectual about Jake White.

As he chats away on the phone from Canberra, I imagine him looking honestly at me from behind his new ebony-coloured spectacles, and sincerely responding to my probing examination.

For all intents and purposes, Jake is not a man of few words, which just about defies his academic demeanour. If talking rugby were an Olympic sport, Jake would be the only entrant, as the others would cry off in shame.

The current Brumbies mentor’s transition from the hustle-bustle of South Africa to the tranquil valley surroundings of Canberra has been fairly seamless, helped in no small part of having previously resided in Stellenbosch. “The people in the community have been really friendly, probably due to the fact that the team is doing so well.”

And his commitment to the Brumbies is nailed to just about every mast in the Australian capital: “My wife is here, but my two boys are still in Cape Town at school and university. I have tried to show the players that I am committed to get the job done by not commuting back and forth. I’ve only been home once, for the tour.”

South Africans jumping ship to Australia is not a new thing, but Jake bashes down the perception that given the apparent similarities of the two countries, moving eastward is uncomplicated. “I’m loving being out of my comfort zone. Aussies actually don’t do things the way we do things in SA. That’s not to say what we do in SA is right!”

Upon his arrival last July, he discovered an almost unrecognisable Brumbies outfit. The once-famed modern rugby trend-setters were hovering in the depths of Super Rugby classification. “They had lost that edge, but their saving grace was the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) on their doorstep.”

He instantly set about his work, onboarding former Brumbies household names George Gregan and Eddie Jones as consultants, and rekindling the AIS relationship. It unquestionably has the aroma of former Brumbies’ glory days.

He consciously also made the decision not to bring any South Africans over - staff or players. “I did not want to bombard. I first wanted to see how the organisation worked, what was at their disposal and then decide how to add value.”

He then appointed Waratahs defector, Ben Mowen, as skipper as he was convinced that he was the right guy – a la John Smit - to complement his coaching ideology. “I’ve never seen a successful coach who has a poor captain. I decided early so that we all got behind him, and also to break up the cliques that can form.”

Against all odds, the turnaround was almost immediate. “I really enjoy being allowed to do what I want, pick, recruit and substitute who I want. It’s just great to compete in the real world.”

We both snigger, but it papers over the cracks of a South African system racked with obtuseness. I breathe a sigh of relief; I’ve hit a soft spot. The frost of those words begins to set in.

As for South Africans crossing the pond, Jake isn’t completely shutting the gate. “You’re allowed two foreign-based players in Australian franchises, and they become eligible for Australia after three years if they choose. But it’s a professional sport so if a guy upskills himself then returns home, then great. André Vos did that and became Bok captain. The converse is that you get guys like Dan Vickerman and Clyde Rathbone who became Wallabies.”

Now for the acid test. Would he coach the Wallabies? After all, his good mate Mickey Arthur got another crack at coaching cricket internationally, and is doing superbly with Australia. “I’ve made no secrets of the fact that after this job I’d love to coach international rugby again, wherever the opportunity is, and test myself at the best level.”

I also give him the opportunity to explain the Lions debacle in which he was embroiled. He is candid in his response. “The reality was I offered my services as a consultant to look at the organisation from a rugby point of view and was paid a consultancy fee.” I sense his irritation at being asked.

“Which part should I claim - the Currie Cup win or their current Super Rugby failings? A lot of things did change when I left, but it’s not necessarily because of me. I truly believe Kevin de Klerk (Lions CEO) was thankful.”

Our time is limited, so I had one for the road. “Jake, how many Brumbies would make the Springbok team?”

His reply was more delightful than I could have ever envisaged. “Now that I’ve realised what the answer is, none of them, because they’re all eligible to play for Australia.” Bingo.

Click HERE to follow Rob on Twitter

Rob has called Cape Town, London and Melbourne home during 30 years in this lifetime. He has had a banking career, was Communications Officer for the Springbok Supporters Club UK and writes a rugby column for expat publication The South African.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    jake white  |  rugby


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk
Breaking News

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...


The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Who will win this year's Cricket World Cup?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.