White has always stated his prime goal is to return to coaching an international team, something Sharks CEO John Smit acknowledged yesterday in announcing the move, but the departure is not on as amicable terms as the statement suggested.
The director of rugby’s tenure has been on rocky ground since the Sharks board took exception to the unpopular style of play used in SuperRugby, with an over-reliance on kicking and territory, and the former schoolteacher has also reportedly had bust-ups with junior players at the union.
“Jake and I have known each other a long time and were very frank in our discussions regarding this Sharks opportunity back in 2013, Jake was excited to implement change as well as be involved with South Africa’s most talented squad, but from the outset stated his ambition to be on the international stage again and I was all too happy to have him for however long we could. What he has achieved for us in such a short time is incredible and our staff and players have learned a huge amount,” Smit said in the statement.
The captain of White’s 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok team praised White for the culture he had installed at the Sharks and his work in developing structures for both the leading players and those coming through the system.
“Jake was also tasked to up-skill the young coaches as well as tidy up all rugby structures across the board from our academy all the way to our senior team. Initially it was thought this would take some time. However, being allowed to concentrate on these tasks during the Absa Currie Cup has fast-tracked the process and we can happily say our SuperRugby squad is in place and our pre-season plan ready to go.
“The mentoring role Jake has played to our coaches has been invaluable and the time is right for Jake to free himself up for any international coaching and consulting opportunities. The 2015 Rugby World Cup is just months away,” Smit said.
White has a very good relationship with Japan coach Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies mentor who he brought in as a consultant to South Africa’s triumphant 2007 campaign. Jones recently suffered a stroke, plus Japan are in the same pool as South Africa, of whom White obviously has intimate knowledge. The Japan Rugby Union are also well off financially, so paying for a consultant of White’s pedigree would not be a problem.
White has confirmed that he will be moving back to Cape Town, prompting speculation that he might be lining up a role with the Stormers. But this would be highly unlikely, given that current coach Allister Coetzee has steered his team to the top of the Currie Cup log and they already have a high-profile director of rugby in Gert Smal, who was White’s assistant with the Springboks.
Plus the brand of rugby White introduced at the Sharks will not go down well with the Newlands faithful.
The doors at King’s Park could well be opening for someone like Gary Gold, who was the Springbok forwards coach from 2008-2011, during the Peter de Villiers era, and someone who worked well with Smit.
However, if the decision is not left entirely to the CEO and the Sharks board want to be actively involved in recruiting White’s successor, then former All Black and Gauteng Lions coach John Mitchell is already in KwaZulu-Natal as the head of University of KZN rugby.