Jake White has added another trophy to his CV after the Blue Bulls beat the Sharks 26-19 in Saturday’s final, completing a successful season following the Super Rugby Unlocked title.
CAPE TOWN – Thirteen years is a long time in professional sport, especially rugby, and in that time, Jake White has learnt a lot about how to manage a team.
Since coaching the Springboks to the 2007 Rugby World Cup title, the 57-year-old has picked up many trends around the globe, having coached the Brumbies, Sharks, Montpellier and Japan’s Toyota Verblitz.
Now, in his first Currie Cup campaign as a head coach, White has added another trophy to his CV after the Blue Bulls beat the Sharks 26-19 in Saturday’s final, completing a successful season following the Super Rugby Unlocked title.
Here are five new tricks we picked up in White’s playbook this season
Not over-using the maul
White was such a true believer in this aspect that he even turned the original phase-playing masters, the Brumbies, into driving maul experts.
But despite the Bulls boasting the likes of Duane Vermeulen and Trevor Nyakane, they have hardly started up those diesel engine machines.
Instead, the Pretoria outfit have mixed up their play smartly – sometimes they drive, or the ball is delivered immediately to the backline … or even a quick throw without jumping.
Picking a fetcher
We all remember the Luke Watson situation, but while there were clearly personal issues at play, part of the reason was also to do with White’s rugby philosophy.
He was a huge disciple of big, ball-carrying loose forwards who could jump in the line-outs – the abrasive Schalk Burger was the chosen one at No 6 for the Boks.
But perhaps seeing two of the ultimate fetchers, George Smith and David Pocock, up close and personal at the Brumbies changed his mind.
It resulted in Marco van Staden being retained as a key cog of the Bulls pack, and the No 6 responded with arguably the best season of his career.
While Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie are rated as one of the top Bok midfield pairs, they were not entirely “allowed” to play their natural games under White, who wanted his centres to be physical and take the ball up to the advantage line.
In contrast, Bulls duo Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans have played with the finesse of old-style centres such as Frenchmen Philippe Sella, Franck Mesnel and Thierry Lacroix.
Wings getting the ball in their hands
While Bryan Habana ended as the Boks’ leading try-scorer, and JP Pietersen also got his fair share of touchdowns, they were both required to chase up-and-unders rather than receiving the ball in their hands.
This season, first Travis Ismaiel and then Stravino Jacobs, as well as Kurt-Lee Arendse, have been big parts of the Bulls’ attack, as they were brought into play with set moves and in broken play.
Using the bench
In his Bok days, White had a clear “First XV”, with minimal contributions from the bench.
In the 2007 World Cup final, the only replacement was Wikus van Heerden for Danie Rossouw in the 72nd minute (Bismarck du Plessis was a blood-bin substitute for John Smit for five minutes).
It was a totally different story in this year’s Currie Cup final, but throughout the season as well.
The Bulls bench engineered their turnaround against the Sharks, and also made a big impact in the second half of several other matches.