Recent reports suggested that former World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White was a top contender to take over the coaching role from Heyneke Meyer at Leicester Tigers.
After ongoing (illness-related) family issues in South Africa, Tigers’ former Bulls coach, Meyer, resigned as Leicester head coach on Wednesday this week – after initially taking an indefinite period of compassionate leave in December.
In his absence forwards coach Richard Cockerill has taken over the head coaching duties at the Premiership club on a caretaker basis, supported by Australian backline coach Matt O’Connor and Irishman Paul Burke.
And following Meyer’s resignation the current coaching structures are set to remain in place at Leicester until the end of the 2008/09 season. Cockerill has already had a successful short-term tenure at Welford Road, namely helping the Tigers to secure a home Heineken Cup quarterfinal.
Since Meyer’s absence, certain high-profile coaches have been named as front-runners to succeed Meyer at the end of the season, including Cardiff’s Dai Young, former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan, Western Force coach John Mitchell, former England and Leicester legend Neil Back, as well as Cockerill.
However, leading that list has been South Africa’s former World Cup-winning coach, White – who is currently working with Premiership club Saracens on a consultancy basis. There he has teamed up again with Eddie Jones, who acted as White’s technical advisor during the victorious 2007 World Cup campaign in France.
White had also reportedly been ‘overlooked’ for the coaching position at Tigers last season, which, according to White, has all been nothing but a classic case of media speculation.
“I have never applied for the Leicester job,” White told rugby365.com exclusively on Friday.
“Every time the Leicester job comes up, my name does the rounds again. Last time I didn’t even apply and I got told Heyneke beat me to the job!
“Now all of a sudden guys are saying to me I’ve applied after he’s [Meyer] resigned and left, which I find quite odd.
“I don’t know why I keep getting linked to the Leicester Tigers job. I haven’t been contacted by Leicester, I know nothing about it.”
Since stepping down from the Springbok helm after steering the Boks to World Cup glory, White is yet to take on another full-time coaching position, and at this stage seems quite content to remain as a consultant for the former Wallaby boss.
“At this point in time it’s actually quite nice to consult, there’s no pressure of being a head coach,” White confessed.
“I think if you’re a head coach you should be involved from the beginning where you can do the recruiting of players, and have a vision for the club.
“I was lucky enough to work for four years with the Springboks and that helps you with the whole planning, but at this point I’m happy to just be part of a consultancy role and happy to be part of something with Eddie [Jones].
“Eddie’s been really good to me, he has no threat of me trying to take his job, and I feel comfortable that I can add value to things that he’s trying at his club.”
White’s services have of course been highly sought after post-World Cup, which along with his commitments at Saracens, saw him take on an advisory role at struggling Top 14 club, Toulon, in December.
Surely a coach of Jake White’s calibre then can afford to be selective about his next big move?
“One of the things about being a World Cup-winning coach is that every time there is a job going, people will always say your name is up,” White added.
“I think sometimes it’s for the wrong reasons [though] because I think they try build a club’s profile, so they can say ‘hey listen, we’ve got Eddie Jones and Jake White’, so the supporters feel as though they’re looking at the best players, and the best coaches.
“It’s obviously very nice for one’s life in rugby that people do consider you, but at this point I’m just happy to be a consultant.
“As I say, no other club, including Leicester, has contacted me directly to see whether I’d be interested. I think it’s all speculation at this point.”
Nick Pawson – Rugby 365Tweet