White is keen to broaden the player pool at the union but, largely because of contractual constraints, he will need to work closely with SA Rugby
PRETORIA – Incoming Bulls director of rugby Jake White insisted that a symbiotic relationship between his new union and mother body SA Rugby was an absolute must to ensure the success of both parties.
To skeptics, White’s arrival back in South African rugby had the potential to create the perfect storm and a clash of personalities between White and his SA Rugby contemporary Rassie Erasmus.
But White, the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning coach, told Independent Media that his relationship with Erasmus, who led the Boks to last year’s World Cup glory, was good.
“Our relationship is good,” White said.
“Let’s not forget I gave Rassie an opportunity to coach the Boks in 2007 as an assistant coach. I’ve also coached Rassie directly when I was part of Nick Mallett’s coaching group and Harry Viljoen’s coaching group when Rassie was still playing for South Africa.
“I haven’t seen or spoken to him in ages, but I’ve got no doubt that all he wants is for the Springboks to stay strong. If the Bulls are strong, that’s gonna help the Springbok cause in any event.”
The Bulls confirmed White’s appointment last week, ending weeks of speculation that the former Brumbies, Sharks, Montpellier and Toyota Verblitz coach was headed to Pretoria.
White is keen to broaden the player pool at the union but, largely because of contractual constraints, he will need to work closely with SA Rugby in order to entice the top players he covets to either stay in the country or return from overseas.
Last year the Bulls lost World Cup winners Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, RG Snyman and Lood de Jager, but the franchise is hoping a few of them follow Duane Vermeulen, who will officially return to Pretoria from Japan in June.
“It’s not a case of can there be but there must be a mutually beneficial relationship to both entities,” said White.
“We need SA Rugby to assist us with top up money for some of our international players.
“We need them to pick our players, so we can assure our players that they have an opportunity to play for South Africa.
“Boys that come to the Bulls must have that desire to become Springboks and our job is then to make sure we produce Springboks.
“Doc Craven in those days used to say if Western Province and Northern Transvaal were strong, then South African rugby was strong. I still think the same applies today.
“I do believe that’s a great measurement to see how strong we are as a nation. So, we need a working relationship between both parties.”
White takes over a Bulls organisation that’s facing one of its toughest transitional periods in their history. Their roster is filled with talented but inexperienced players such as Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Muller Uys and Ruan Nortje.
“We are going to have to bring in players that can help those youngsters so that they can develop quickly,” he said.
“The senior players we bring in are going to have to be like the Os du Randts were at the Springboks when they helped those  players. The talent pool is there to create the Bulls winning culture again. But there needs to be some changes. You can’t keep the same group of players and expect to get different results.
“There have to be tweaks.When you put Duane Vermeulen at No 8 and Papier behind him at No 9, the ball that Papier gets and the protection he gets is a lot different than when you’re playing a young No 8 plus a young No 10.”
White will be taking over the hands on coaching as soon as training resumes post the coronavirus shutdown, he confirmed.
Because of his brief year-long stint at the Sharks in 2014, apprehension has followed his latest appointment, with some fearing he will not see out his contract, which expires after the 2023 World Cup.
White was swift to quell the incredulity regarding his intended period of stay.
“I do intend to stay the course at the Bulls,” he added. “I intended to do the same in all those jobs but sometimes, through circumstances that are difficult to explain in newspapers, it doesn’t work. “When you feel like you cannot get things out of an organisation that you need, then it becomes difficult. But I’m confident, having chatted to the Bulls on what happened at the Sharks and at the Brumbies, they understand my position. And they’ve given me their backing.”