2011 Inductee: Jake White

(IRB.COM) Monday 24 October 2011
 2011 Inductee: Jake White

IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.44 – Jake Antonie White (1963-) Old Boys Club, Jeppe Quondam, Johannesburg

Personal details

– Born: 13 December 1963 in Johannesburg, South Africa
– Family:  Born as Jacob Westerduin, the oldest son of Johan and Rose Westerduin. He has a brother Jon, two years his junior. Their parents got divorced when Jacob was six and his mother remarried Dennis White, who adopted Jacob and Jon and his name changed to Jake White. He married Debbie Potgieter with whom he has two sons, Clinton and Wesley.
– Education: Hatfield Primary in Pretoria, Dale College at King Williams Town, Lord Milner School near Warmbath, (Bella Bella) and Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg. After school he went to Johannesburg College of Education (JCE) where he trained to become a teacher. Graduated in 1985 but was exempt from the then compulsory military service for medical reasons.
Other sports: he briefly played cricket, hockey, swimming and hockey.

Professional career

A teacher (and rugby coach) at Jeppe High School. For a short time he became a car salesman in Johannesburg, before joining the Transvaal Rugby Union as coaching manager. From 1996, he became a professional rugby coach working either for the South African Rugby Union, the Natal Sharks and most recently for the Australian Super Rugby franchise the Brumbies.

Awards and records

– The B pitch at Jeppe High School was named “The Jake White” field
– IRB International Coach of the Year in 2004
– Coached South Africa to their second RWC title in 2007  
– IRB International Coach of the Year in 2007
– Laureus Team of the Year 2008
– One of 19 Rugby World Cup founders, pioneers and legends inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame at the IRB Awards in Auckland on 24 October 2011

Rugby career

– Started playing at Dale College at the age of six
– Went to Lord Milner School where his coaches helped him develop as a player and he became captain of the school First XV
– In 1976, White was invited to the Far North Primary School Craven Week trials, but did not get selected     
– In 1977, he joined Jeppe Boys High School, where he played for the various age groups under Bernard Fridman “who had a profound impact on my life as a person and as a coach”. He had a brief break from rugby, when he joined the Under 15 hockey team, but Fridman convinced him to return to rugby
– During his time at Jeppe High School he developed a close relationship with Grant Brown and Clifford Pitt and their families, admitting “the role the Browns and Pitts played in my life was immense”
– In 1981, he was selected for Jeppe High School first team, but he was never awarded the coveted school colours
– He went on playing for the Under 20s of Jeppe High School Old Boys club, while coaching Parktown Boys High School, which was his first-ever coaching appointment
– Played briefly for the Old Boys Club, Jeppe Quondam, before he started teaching and coaching full-time

Coaching career

– He started coaching at Parktown Boys High School in Johannesburg in 1982. He started with the Under 15s and by 1983 he was coaching the school’s first team. He went on coaching Parktown BHS until 1985
– In 1986, having avoided military service for medical reasons, he applied for and got a job with his former ‘alma mater’ Jeppe Boys High School.
– His first assignment at Jeppe High School was as coach of Under 15A team, with whom he went through the season undefeated. The following year (1987) he coached the Under 14A team, among them future Springbok hooker James Dalton
– Meanwhile he attended several coaching courses held by the Transvaal Union and by 1991 he had reached Level Four coaching, having passed the final exam cum laude
– In 1988 he coached the Under 14A team to an unbeaten season and the following year he was asked to take over the First XV. The first tour to Kwazulu Natal was a modest disaster, with two defeats and a draw out of three matches.
– Former Jeppe Old Boy Noel Shelly joined him as an assistant coach, a significant move which helped White develop as both a coach and educator. During this time he became involved with the Craven Week as a member of the coaching staff
– White was instrumental in naming Jeppe’s main rugby pitch the ‘Jack Collard field’ after the former coach who made rugby the main winter game at school in 1935
– In 1994 he resigned from his teaching job at Jeppe and after one year as car salesman, he joined the Transvaal Union as coaching manager
– In the 1996/97 season, as the Game had turned professional, he helped the ailing Fanie Bosch coach the Golden Lions (Transvaal) Under 21s, while carrying on as coaching manager of the Transvaal Union
– In 1997, at the suggestion of former South Africa coach Andre Markgraaff, he was offered a short-term contract as a technical advisor of the newly-appointed Springbok coach Nick Mallett
– After the end of the highly-successful 1997 Springbok tour to Italy, France, England and Scotland, White was offered a full-time contract with SARFU as the Springbok technical advisor
– In 1998 South Africa won the Tri Nations for the first time, but following disagreements with assistant coach Alan Solomons, White found himself discarded at the beginning of 1999
– Still an employee of SARFU he helped the Blue Bulls during the 1999 Super 12 campaign, after which, at the suggestion of Rian Oberholzer, the then SARFU CEO, he was appointed assistant coach of South Africa Under 21s following the withdrawal of the previous assistant coach Willie Hills
– With Eric Sauls as head coach, Temba Wiso as team manager and John Smit as captain, White made a significant contribution to the South African success in the 1999 SANZAR/UAR Under 21 Championship in Argentina, when the Baby Boks won the tournament for the first time
– After the Under 21 tournament he continued working for SARFU, while acting as an analyst for a TV show on SuperSport channel
– Towards the end of 1999 he left SARFU, having joined the Natal Sharks as assistant coach, with former full back Hugh Reece-Edwards as head coach
– In 2000, the Sharks appointed Rudolf Straeuli as the new head coach with White retaining his position. That year the Sharks were defeated by the Western Province in the Currie Cup final
– In the autumn of 2000 the new Springbok coach Harry Viljoen invited Jake White and Andre Markgraff to become his assistant coaches for the tour of Argentina and the UK. White’s was only an interim appointment as the Sharks refused to let him go for good
– In April 2001, after several months of negotiations between SARFU and Natal Sharks, White rejoined the Springboks as a full-time member of Viljoen’s management team, but after only one season he resigned
– After the 2001 Tri Nations Jake White became assistant coach to Allister Coetzee, the then coach of South Africa Under 23 and South Africa A. During 2002 he toured Spain and Georgia with South Africa A
– White was appointed head coach of the Baby Boks for the 2002 Under 21 World Championship, hosted by South Africa. Closely supported by the SARFU CEO Rian Oberholzer, and with Naas Botha as team manager, South Africa won the first Under 21 World Championship
– White carried on as head coach of the Baby Boks for the 2003 Under 21 World Championship in England, when South Africa finished fourth
– In 2004 he was asked to apply for the Springbok head coach position and was appointed following a comprehensive selection process. He nominated former Springboks Gerd Small and Allister Coetzee as his assistant coaches and Derrick Coetzee as the fitness coach. Significantly, he hired Elna van Niekerk, a specialist in team-building techniques, to help rebuild the morale of the team shattered in the aftermath of RWC 2003
– His first Test as South Africa coach was a 31-17 victory over Ireland in Bloemfontein on 12 June 2004, with John Smit as captain, a significant long-term appointment
– South Africa won both Tests against Ireland and also the Test against the visiting Wales, a 100 per cent success rate at the beginning of White’s Springboks coaching career
– Before the 2004 Tri Nations, the Springboks travelled to Australia where they beat the Pacific Islanders
– South Africa narrowly lost the away Tests to New Zealand and Australia in the 2004 Tri Nations, but beat both at home to win the title for the second time  
– At the end of 2004, White was voted the IRB International Coach of the Year and his SARFU contract was extended for a further two years
– Although South Africa won three matches in the 2005 Tri Nations (incidentally scoring 22 points in each of them), they lost the fourth to New Zealand in Dunedin and finished the competition as runners-up
– 2006 was poor by previous years and White experienced considerable difficulties. South Africa lost their two-year unbeaten record to France and were soundly beaten 49-0 by Australia in the Tri Nations. However the Springboks finished the Tri Nations with two valuable wins against New Zealand and Australia.
– With many of the senior Springboks left at home to rest, the end of the year tour in 2006 – celebrating 100 years since the first ever Springbok tour by Paul Roos’ team – was not particularly successful, with South Africa losing two of the three Tests
– The World Cup year started with two Tests against the visiting England, followed by Samoa and the Tri Nations. After the seven matches White and the other two selectors, Ian McIntosh and Pieter Jooste, announced the 30-strong squad for RWC 2007 in France
– When technical advisor Rassie Erasmus told White he was unavailable to go to France, he contacted former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones, who accepted the challenge and became the Springboks’ technical advisor
– South Africa played three warm-up games before RWC 2007, against Namibia at home, Irish province Connacht and Scotland
– South Africa won RWC 2007 and White was voted the IRB International Coach of the Year. The Springboks were also named IRB Team of the Year after recording 13 wins in 16 Tests
– White’s final game in charge of South Africa was in November 2007, with the Springboks defeating Wales 34-12 at the Millennium Stadium

Tours and competitions

– 1999 – SANZAR/UAR Under 21 Championship (assistant coach)
– 2000 – South Africa tour of Argentina and UK (assistant coach)
– 2001 – South Africa ‘A’ tour of Spain and Georgia (assistant coach)
– 2002 – Under 21 World Championship (head coach)
– 2003 – Under 21 World Championship (head coach)
– 2004 – Tri Nations – South Africa (head coach)
– 2004 – SA tour of the UK & Argentina (head coach)
– 2005 – Tri Nations (head coach)
– 2005 – South Africa tour of Argentina, France and Wales (head coach)
– 2006 – Tri Nations (head coach)
– 2006 – South Africa tour of England and Ireland (head coach)
– 2007 – Tri Nations (head coach)
– 2007 – Rugby World Cup (head coach)

South Africa coaching Test summary

12/06/2004 – South Africa 31-17 Ireland            
19/06/2004 – South Africa 26-17 Ireland            
26/06/2004 – South Africa 53-18 Wales            
17/07/2004 – South Africa 38-24 Pacific Islanders    
24/07/2004 – South Africa 21-23 New Zealand        
31/07/2004 – South Africa 26-30 Australia        
14/08/2004 – South Africa 40-26 New Zealand        
21/08/2004 – South Africa 23-19 Australia        
06/11/2004 – South Africa 38-36 Wales            
13/11/2004 – South Africa 12-17 Ireland            
20/11/2004 – South Africa 16-32 England            
27/11/2004 – South Africa 45-10 Scotland        
04/12/2004 – South Africa 39-7    Argentina        
11/06/2005 – South Africa 134-3 Uruguay                
18/06/2005 – South Africa 30-30 France            
25/06/2005 – South Africa 27-13 France            
09/07/2005 – South Africa 12-30 Australia        
23/07/2005 – South Africa 33-20 Australia        
30/07/2005 – South Africa 22-16 Australia        
06/08/2005 – South Africa 22-16 New Zealand        
20/08/2005 – South Africa 22-19 Australia        
27/08/2005 – South Africa 27-31 New Zealand        
05/11/2005 – South Africa 34-23 Argentina        
19/11/2005 – South Africa 33-16 Wales            
26/11/2005 – South Africa 20-26 France            
10/06/2006 – South Africa 36-16 Scotland        
17/06/2006 – South Africa 29-15 Scotland        
24/06/2006 – South Africa 26-36 France            
15/07/2006 – South Africa 0-49    Australia        
22/07/2006 – South Africa 17-35 New Zealand        
05/08/2006 – South Africa 18-20 Australia        
26/08/2006 – South Africa 26-45 New Zealand        
02/09/2006 – South Africa 21-20 New Zealand        
09/09/2006 – South Africa 24-16 Australia        
11/11/2006 – South Africa 15-32 Ireland            
18/11/2006 – South Africa 21-23 England            
25/11/2006 – South Africa 25-14 England            
26/05/2007 – South Africa 58-10 England            
02/06/2007 – South Africa 55-22 England            
09/06/2007 – South Africa 35-8 Samoa            
16/06/2007 – South Africa 22-19 Australia        
23/06/2007 – South Africa 21-26 New Zealand        
07/07/2007 – South Africa 17-25 Australia        
14/07/2007 – South Africa 6-33 New Zealand        
15/08/2007 – South Africa 105-13 Namibia            
25/08/2007 – South Africa 27-3 Scotland        
09/09/2007 – South Africa 59-7 Samoa            
14/09/2007 – South Africa 36-0 England            
22/09/2007 – South Africa 30-25 Tonga            
30/09/2007 – South Africa 64-15 USA            
07/10/2007 – South Africa 37-20 Fiji            
14/10/2007 – South Africa 37-13 Argentina        
20/10/2007 – South Africa 15-6 England            
24/11/2007 – South Africa 34-12 Wales    

Career records and highlights

– During his six years as coach of Jeppe Boys High School, 26 of his pupils were selected for the Craven Week, an achievement White values highly
– White was the youngest member of Nick Mallett’s Springbok management team when he joined in 1997
– The 1999 South Africa Under 21 team with White as assistant coach won the SANZAR/UAR tournament undefeated, scoring 17 tries and conceding one in their pool matches
– He coached South Africa Under 21s in the newly-launched Word Championship in 2002 and 2003, winning 10 of the 12 matches and the title in 2002
– In 2004, he coached South Africa to their first Tri Nations title since 1998
– In 2005, White’s Springboks defeated Uruguay 134-3, setting several South African records in the process – the biggest score against any opposition, the biggest winning margin and the most tries (21), with Tonderai Chawanga setting a try-scoring record with six on his debut
– In 2006 South Africa lost 49-0 to Australia, the worst defeat under White and the second worst defeat in Springbok history
– The same year South Africa played and won two non-cap matches against World XV selections, the first in Cape Town and the second in Leicester at the conclusion of the Centenary tour
– South Africa defeated England in three consecutive Tests, one at Twickenham in 2006 and the others during their tour of the Republic in 2007. The Springboks scored a total of 113 points in the last two Tests
– Rugby World Cup record – champions in 2007
– Test coaching summary – played 53, won 35, drawn one and lost 17
– When White took over as Springboks coach South Africa were seventh in the IRB World Rankings. In 2005 they had climbed to second and two years later reached the top.

What he said

“I wanted to be a great player. As a child, I dreamt of running out for the Springboks, as millions of South African boys do. But I eventually realised that my calling was not going to be as a player. I was lucky to meet people honest enough to tell me this at a time when I didn’t want to accept this.”

“Rugby has always been part of my life. Some of my earliest memories involve rugby, and every major decision and aspect of my path is in some way linked to this game; from moulding me in my youth and providing me with great opportunities and lessons, to meeting my wife, plus the little things in between. It’s rugby that’s been a constant throughout my life.”

“The physical education teacher at Jeppe was a guy called Gerry Wernars, who made me want to become a teacher and coach sport at school. The only reason I wanted to teach was so I could be a coach.”

“I grew up idolising the green and gold and dreamt of playing for the Springboks, but by the end of the school I knew I was not good enough to be a Bok. But I loved the game and started coaching. And I found my role – coaching the Springboks.”

“If you fail to prepare, then be prepared to fail.”

“What can I say about John Smit’s value to me personally? I have huge respect for him, and there was never any doubt about who led our group. He’s matured an amazing amount, and referees talk about how they enjoy working with him on the field. As a captain and a friend he has been unbelievable.”

“I treat players with respect. You have to be sensitive to race in our country, and as Bok coach you have an obligation to your country to help with transformation. We live in a unique situation. But more importantly, players are human, with sensitivities and feelings like any other person. Transformation is sensitive, and the player is often the victim. When I deal with it, I think: How would I feel if it was my son?”

“Losing taught us a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a team. There would be more losses and more fires to extinguish before the year (2006) was out. But a year away from the Rugby World Cup, there was some silver lining around the dark clouds.”

What they said

John Smit (former South Africa captain): “Even back in 1999, it was clear Jake had an excellent understanding of the game and a very good rapport with players. But to this day I say his greatest talent is his ability to choose a balanced rugby team. Selection is his greatest gift and it started way back in those days.”

David Llewellyn (rugby writer, The Independent): “When South Africa’s captain John Smit raised aloft the Webb Ellis Trophy after the Springboks had beaten defending champions England in the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, it constituted a near-miracle. How the hell their coach, Jake White, got a balanced squad together, let alone masterminding an historic triumph in Paris last October, defies belief.”

Andy Colquhoun (rugby writer, Daily Telegraph): “After four years in the mincer that is South African rugby politics it is arguable that Jake White’s greatest achievement is not that he has taken the Springboks to the World Cup final but that he has done it while retaining his sense of humour.”

John Smit (former South Africa captain): “In Jake White’s time as Springbok coach, Andre (Venter) was the guest at our jersey presentation on two occasions in 2004 and 2007. The first occasion was hugely emotional. Andre had been struck down with a rare, debilitating muscle disease and arrived at our Bloemfontein hotel in a wheelchair. It was the most humbling experience of our careers because we saw Andre as the lion, the ultimate Bok warrior, and none more so than Jake. For Jake Andre epitomised everything good about a Bok: big, strong, skilful, honest and hard-working, with the fearless, no-nonsense attitude of a true soldier…I’m not surprised Jake got so choked up because he’s one of the most passionate people about Springbok rugby I’ve ever met. He holds a high regard for the old-school values that have made the Boks such a force: tradition, honesty, loyalty, patriotism and hard work. Andre Venter epitomised all these qualities.”

Paul Rees (rugby writer, The Guardian): “The fact that White was being candid two days before the game of his life rather than lapsing into meaningless coach-speak, saying nothing so as not to inflame the opposition, shows not only his self-confidence but also his unshakeable belief in his players. He knows this has been a tournament to prepare for the unexpected, but he wants South Africa to be painted as the favourites they are. He is not into pretence in what are his final days as South Africa’s coach.”

Divan Serfontein (former Springbok scrum half in the Rapport newspaper after the 49-0 defeat to Australia): “It was shocking. The faster White resigns the better. He has no clue what’s going on, he must do the honourable thing and pack his bags.”

Brad Morgan (writer, SouthAfrica.info): “Coach Jake White, who so nearly lost his post at the end of 2006 when he was summoned back home during South Africa’s end of season European tour, deserves a lot of credit for identifying what the Springboks needed to win and then sticking to his guns. When he took over, he wanted a dominant loosehead prop and persuaded Os du Randt to end his retirement from the international game. He identified fullback as a potential weakness and approached Percy Montgomery, then playing his rugby in Wales, to return to the Springbok team. He also appointed John Smit captain of the team.”

Eddie Jones (former South Africa technical advisor and Australia coach): “I’d classify Jake as a real rugby man, steeped in the traditions and ethos of the game. He relates very well to rugby people, which is one of his strengths … I knew Jake fairly well, but when I worked with the Springboks I realised the extent of his generosity and how much personal time he was prepared to invest in a range of people ... What impressed me was his sincerity and how he ensured that his players were looked after.”

Mark Keohane (South African journalist and author, former Springboks media manager): “Great selectors tend to make for great national coaches because the nature of the job is that player identification determines the evolution of a national side to champions, more so than a regional, provincial or club evolution over a period of time. The professional structures don’t allow for excessive and indulgent time between a national squad and national coach in an age of instant gratification. Jake White’s success with winning the 2007 World Cup was in his ability to identify a group of youngsters and integrate this with veterans who repaid the loyalty with performance. White’s greatest attribute is his loyalty to and belief in those players he has identified as the best for success. He is also a damn fine technical coach with an insatiable passion for the game.”