pastorshark

Trusting Jake


Written by Udo Lütge (pastorshark)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks, Super Rugby on 4 Jun 2014 at 09:34
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Jake White is a top coach and worthy of our trust. Perhaps after the debacle of last weekend that should read: “and STILL worthy of our trust.”

This is my first article on this site – I’ve been thinking about writing it for some time now. Jake has come in for quite a bit of criticism in the comments here: our game plan is one-dimensional, team selections are too conservative and the coach puts his foot in his mouth in the media too often for comfort! While such criticism is sometimes valid I would like to put it in its greater context and draw my conclusions from it.

FIRSTLY, I’ll start by taking a closer look at Jake’s coaching resumé:

  • Jake started out coaching at schools level and was highly successful there. In the six years he coached the Jeppe Boys High 1st XV they enjoyed two unbeaten seasons – in 1991 and 1994. His last game in charge was against Grey PE – Jeppe won 46-0.
  • From there he hit provincial level taking on several positions as technical advisor and assistant coach, including a stint with the Sharks in 2000. I first met him when he was still involved in the Lions structures and tried to convince my youngest brother, who had played for Natal Schools in 1997 and 1998, to accept a bursary at RAU. Everyone was starting to sit up and notice Jake, especially for his skills in technical analysis.
  • Jake was appointed as the SA u21 coach and it didn’t take him long to be successful there: a few months in to the job and the Baby Boks had won the inaugural u21 World Cup.
  • In 2004 he took the big step up to the Boks – at that stage he was still relatively unknown. The Boks were at a low point in their history: 2003 was a disaster! Kamp Staaldraad, record losses and a pathetic World Cup. What happened from there is well-known. In his first season Jake coached the Boks to an unbelievable Tri-Nations title and – despite ups and downs along the way – at the next World Cup we were crowned World Champions!
  • After some time in the coaching wilderness he took on a Brumbies job at a time when that team was pretty much nowhere. After finishing 13th in 2011 and having no stars to speak of, they just missed out on a playoff spot by one position in Jake’s first year in 2012 and were then beaten finalists in 2013.
  • Now he is at the Sharks and, after missing out on the playoffs last year, our boys have been top of the log every week of the competition so far.

I think the point is clear: this man can coach! He has had a fair measure of success with EVERY team that he has coached. It’s really tough to argue with the stats.

SECONDLY, a brief look at his coaching philosophy over the years shows that he has been remarkably consistent. Jake has always been more on the conservative side of the coaching spectrum. In every coaching job he has been an advocate for consistency in selection. Over the years he has preferred a direct game plan that minimises risk – that game plan has been illustrated by his well-documented preference for tall, big players who can play that direct game. I remember the second time I met him: he looked at me and asked whether I could lend Luke Watson 1 foot of my 6 foot 7 so that might want to select him! My point I this: I don’t think anyone should be surprised by our current game plan because that is the Jake White template. I should also point out that this template has always been particularly successful! And I’m not one who thinks that this game plan necessarily means boring rugby. In fact, many Jake White sides – including the Boks – have scored plenty of tries. And our first game of the season showed glimpses of how it could work. My opinion is that it has not been the game plan that has stood in the way of us scoring tries, but our handling and finishing. Looking at several games again, a 25% improvement in handling would have led to more than double the current try count. We have created more than enough opportunities – we just haven’t finished anywhere near enough of them.

UdoAndJakeTHIRDLY, I have met Jake several times and those meetings have resulted in great respect for him. One night sticks in my mind very clearly. It was the day that rugby died (you know, that final that we don’t speak of … ever!). My best buddy and I had spent an hour sitting in our seats in absolute shock. When we finally made our way to the car park and the post-rugby braai, who should be standing next to us braining with the common folk? Jake White. While all the other fancy people were up in the presidential suite mixing with the elite, the Springbok coach was in the car park enjoying steak and beer. We started chatting and after a while, as the news spread through the car park, a group of about 50 people gathered. Jake was so down to earth. He moved to an open space and invited everyone to come with him…and then gave us half an hour to ask him whatever we wanted.

He shared his thoughts on rugby, on the players, on his plans for the World Cup. He spoke openly, honestly and with passion. He treated everyone there respectfully and gave of his time to have photos taken with fans like me. It was an incredible gesture from someone who didn’t have to do that, but wanted to and did it anyway. Since that night I’ve met Jake two more times in pubs at the KZN South Coast – and every time it’s been the same: a down to earth normal bloke talking about his passion for rugby with normal folk who are thrilled to experience it. That alone means that Jake will always have my respect!

So when I reflect on Jake as a coach, I do it against that backdrop…and I see a world class coach who gets world class result, who uses his vast knowledge of the game to come up with the game plan that is going to be most successful and who is just a down to earth bloke with a passion for the game that he doesn’t mind sharing with ordinary people who love the game too.

Of course that doesn’t mean that he’s perfect. I have my concerns. The modern game, for example, requires – in my humble opinion – more rotation in selection than Jake naturally tends towards. Yes, he has always preferred consistency in selection…and with good reason. But the Super Rugby season of today simply demands more rotation than that! And there are other areas where he can improve too. But you know what? In my experience with human beings I have noticed that our biggest strengths are most often also our biggest weaknesses. So we have an honest Jake White who calls it as he sees it (STRENGTH), but that automatically also means that he will sometimes put his foot in it (WEAKNESS). We have a conservative Jake White who employs a game plan that minimises risk and maximises success (STRENGTH), but precisely that sometimes leads to a game where it doesn’t quite work out and it ends up in ugly rugby that’s not much to look at (WEAKNESS). My conclusion? If we want a coach with those strengths, then we have to live with the weaknesses that those strengths bring.

And so…still…all in all…I am very happy that Jake White is our coach. His track record, his rugby philosophy and his personality and approach to the fans will continue to result in much more success than failure. And I haven’t even mentioned his ability to coach individuals so that they become better players – he has shown with the Sharks (and with every other team he’s ever coached) that he has that ability too! All of that leads me to like the man and to trust in his ability to get the best out of our beloved Sharks. Jake White is a top coach and worthy of our trust. The season isn’t over yet…and I hope that the end of this Super Rugby season will have added to the Jake White success story. It really already has…but another trophy would make it better!



43 Comments

  • Very good article!

    I don’t think that the problem is with the gameplan, I think that we need a specialist skills coach to improve the handling and passing. So often we lose out on opportunities because the last pass goes awry or because the pass goes behind the player or next to him instead of in front of him (the All Blacks and Ozzies do that very well).

  • Comment 1, posted at 04.06.14 09:45:33 by ChrisS Reply
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  • Excellent article and we’ll written.

  • Comment 2, posted at 04.06.14 09:48:43 by Caratacus Reply

    CaratacusCurrie Cup player
     
  • When is your next sermon taking place; I think I might want to attend :mrgreen: Excellent article!

  • Comment 3, posted at 04.06.14 10:18:33 by Culling Song Reply
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  • Thanks for the article, and I dont think there can be any doubt that he is a good coach. At the same time I have to be honest and admit that I am not enjoying the way the Sharks are playing at the moment, and I almost feel bad saying that seeing they are top of the log.

  • Comment 4, posted at 04.06.14 10:20:51 by stevovo Reply
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  • Great article

  • Comment 5, posted at 04.06.14 10:28:45 by JarsonX Reply
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  • Not many fans have the luxury of a Tri Nations and World Cup winning coach leading their team. Jake White is world class and yes he does have some weaknesses, don’t we all? There’s still a chance the Sharks could finish top, this competition has proven that no team is incapable of losing, even at home.

  • Comment 6, posted at 04.06.14 10:34:01 by Jacques Venter Reply

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  • Nice article Udo!

  • Comment 7, posted at 04.06.14 11:03:27 by gregkaos Reply
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  • A superb article and a most pleasant read. Well thought out. Thank you! Denése

  • Comment 8, posted at 04.06.14 11:15:25 by [email protected] Reply

    DenCurrie Cup player
     
  • @ChrisS (Comment 1) : Great article ,I agree and I have said it before,The Great White can only work and deploy a tictac relevant to the kop and skill level at hand and clearly both are sadly lacking and need to be worked on big time

  • Comment 9, posted at 04.06.14 11:16:04 by benji Reply
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  • I see the Jake White cult is back up and running after the hiatus of the last few years since stepping down as Bok coach.

    Which bias should i point out here? Familiarity bias? Confirmation bias? Anchoring bias?

    He’s a good coach, no doubt. But he also has serious failings.
    Let me remind you that his CV looks very, very similar to that of one Mr. Peter de Villiers. Would you also say he is a great coach?

  • Comment 10, posted at 04.06.14 12:36:05 by VinChainSaw Reply
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  • Very nice article, I really enjoyed reading about the personal interactions you have had with Jake.

    At the end of the day, love the style of rugby or not, if there is one coach that will be able to deliver a Super title to the Tank it will be coach White.

  • Comment 11, posted at 04.06.14 12:36:20 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 10) : Their CV’s only look very, very similar if you want them to, but to others they look quite different, one having a telling, very important massive ommission.

  • Comment 12, posted at 04.06.14 12:51:30 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • Nice one Udo. I think your last point is very well made – our greatest strengths are usually also our greatest weaknesses.

    @VinChainSaw (Comment 10) : I think the good Pastor has pointed out some of those failings too so kudos there. Their CV’s most likely have many similarities but I’d describe Peter de Villiers as far less conservative compared to Jake White.

  • Comment 13, posted at 04.06.14 13:26:49 by vanmartin Reply
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  • I still think Jake works best when counter-acted by a strong-willed creative attack-minded assistant coach, e.g. Eddie in 2007 and Larkham / Fischer at the Brumbies.

  • Comment 14, posted at 04.06.14 13:59:34 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • No use to complain I guess.

    The Bok team I was looking forward to at the start of the year: 4-Etzebeth, 5-PSdT, 8-Arno(I might actually make him my future Captain), 9-Kockott (never gonna happen), 10-Lambie, 11-Willie, 12-Serfontein/de Allende, 13-Jordaan/(now Sithole), 15-Steyn

    And Kyle Cooper on the Bench ;-)

    But alas, too many injuries.

  • Comment 15, posted at 04.06.14 14:26:38 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 15) : Talk about getting my lines crossed :oops:

  • Comment 16, posted at 04.06.14 14:50:45 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 15) : I thought you were talking about 2007 :grin:

  • Comment 17, posted at 04.06.14 14:53:21 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • Hi guys! Thanks for all the comments!

  • Comment 18, posted at 04.06.14 16:51:58 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 10) : Look, I am an admirer of Jake White and said so openly – I don’t know whether I would call that a cult and I don’t know whether that is only bias-filled. There are a lot of objective facts in there from which I draw my own conclusions. I know Jake has his faults and I did mention some of them. I know there are more faults than those I briefly mentioned – I could write a whole lot more about them, but many of them have been mentioned a lot in comments on this site recently. The article was really about seeing the greater picture, which is not only negative…in fact, in my opinion, it is positive enough that I am happy that Jake is our coach.
    I have to say that I don’t agree that Pieter de Villiers’ and Jake White’s cvs are all that similar. They are similar only in the sense that Pieter de Villiers also won a Junior World Cup with the Baby Boks and coached the Springboks. It really ends there. PdV didn’t really coach at schools level, hasn’t coached at provincial level/Super Rugby level and obviously didn’t win a World Cup…so there is just way less to go on in terms of judging his results and abilities over the years than with Jake White. By the way, I don’t think it’s all bad with PdV either – he did manage to win in New Zealand with the Boks, which JW didn’t, and although he was a bit of a clown in the media, his man management of players in the Bok years seems to have been pretty good. Just looking at his achievements on paper though, he doesn’t get near JW. JW has done more and has achieved more in what he has done. Just purely looking at JW record I don’t see a side that was worse when he left than when he arrived. In terms of results they were all better when he left than when he arrived. If you have specific examples to counter that I’d welcome more detailed comments…

  • Comment 19, posted at 04.06.14 17:09:18 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Had the pleasure of meeting him at Grey PE this year, what a gentleman. He was sitting on his own at the festival and I had a really nice chat with him, he was very open and answered all my questions, very very nice guy!!

  • Comment 20, posted at 04.06.14 17:13:36 by Ludz Reply

    LudzSuper Rugby player
     
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 14) : Good point…I think those guys you mention are also examples of coaches who are strong exactly where Jake is weak – if it’s possible to dove-tail in your management team that way, it is obviously ideal…

  • Comment 21, posted at 04.06.14 17:14:07 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Ludz (Comment 20) : Exactly my experience to…and I’m not shy to say that I really like that!

  • Comment 22, posted at 04.06.14 17:15:06 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @ChrisS (Comment 1) : I like that idea – getting the skills right (and clearly that includes the basics like handling and passing this seasons!) is absolutely crucial!

  • Comment 23, posted at 04.06.14 17:18:08 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 12) :

    A win over the British and Irish Lions?
    Or a win in New Zealand?

  • Comment 24, posted at 04.06.14 17:19:57 by VinChainSaw Reply
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  • Oh, and by the way, the day that rugby died Jake was obviously BRAAIING on the outer fields…not BRAINING! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 25, posted at 04.06.14 17:20:43 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 24) : Exactly, a win over the British and Irish Lions too! But I suppose that backs up my point: their CV’s are just not all that similar in the detail…and that’s just another example – JW never played the Lions…

  • Comment 26, posted at 04.06.14 17:23:03 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Heck, even a Stormers mate of mine (yes, I have those!) read this article and confessed that a few months ago he was upset that the Stormers hadn’t grabbed the chance to appoint Jake White when it was there… :twisted:

  • Comment 27, posted at 04.06.14 17:27:48 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 3) : :mrgreen: This weekend I’m on a bit of a roadtrip (if flying can be referred to as a road trip!) – flying down to East London on Friday to do training of pastors, congregation leaders and youth leaders – theme: youth ministry. And then on Sunday I preach there at their annual church day where different churches come together…and then flying back home on Sunday evening. Should be fun… :cool:

  • Comment 28, posted at 04.06.14 17:45:09 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 27) :

    Mate – Im a Stormers fan and I’m ecstatic we didnt get Jake. He wouldve killed what little creativity we have left.
    Brendan Venter was the one that got away in my mind. That man is a friggin genius.

    Would love to have him and Mallett down in Cape Town.
    You can keep Jake.

  • Comment 29, posted at 04.06.14 18:35:20 by VinChainSaw Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 27) : nice one. Well done.

  • Comment 30, posted at 04.06.14 18:37:31 by JD Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 27) :

    The point I was tryign to make is actually that neither had the necessary pedigree when appointed as Bok coach. Neither really had any senior rugby coaching experience as they both cut their teeth with the u/21s.
    Both were to inexperienced in my mind and it showed.

    Yet both had a good team to work with and both, at one point or another, dominated the world. Both have some impressive victories to look back on, both left under a cloud.

    It took Jake an age to reinvent himself and I suspect it’ll take PdV a while yet before he re-enters the coaching fold.

  • Comment 31, posted at 04.06.14 18:37:58 by VinChainSaw Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 29) : boet and you can have Mallet for free and keep him for life!!!!!

  • Comment 32, posted at 04.06.14 18:39:05 by JD Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 32) :

    You might regret those words after this weekend!

  • Comment 33, posted at 04.06.14 18:43:30 by VinChainSaw Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 29) : Well, we agree on Brendan Venter – he really is a rugby genius! Of course, just to bring perspective again – the Brendan Venter coached Currie Cup team scored less tries in the competition per game than in any over the previous 5 years…and the Saracens also aren’t known for scoring so many tries. In fact, that very thing was a major topic on this and other sites during the last Currie Cup season and Brendan defended the need for setting up plays and having a more conservative game plan because our players simply don’t have the skills to play all out creative rugby. But I do agree: he is a rugby genius and the Stormers would have been far more dangerous with him as a coach than they are now…

  • Comment 34, posted at 04.06.14 19:10:50 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 31) : Given what 2003 was like for the Boks and the clean out that occured thereafter, do you think Jake did start out with a good team to coach? Or did he build that good team pretty much from scratch with new players and a new captain? Your argument holds water for PdV because he did take over an established team. JW certainly didn’t. Given the four years in total – with a Tri-Nations in the first year and a World Cup in the fourth – do you not think that it seems JW did a good job?

  • Comment 35, posted at 04.06.14 19:14:08 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 33) : never ever in your life!!!!

  • Comment 36, posted at 04.06.14 19:22:51 by JD Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 29) : Look at the end of the day it seems I trust Jake White as a rugby coach of my team and you don’t – we can agree to disagree can’t we?

  • Comment 37, posted at 04.06.14 19:46:24 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 37) : look JW is not perfect, I personally would have liked BV to stay but he is way better than NM. JS and JW will do for me thank you very much!!!!! Go Sharks!!!!!!

  • Comment 38, posted at 04.06.14 20:37:35 by JD Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 24) : No, the World Cup, the holy grail of the rugby playing world.

  • Comment 39, posted at 04.06.14 21:41:37 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 31) : PdeV has been coaching the UWC for the last 2 years, sadly not very successfully.

    Anyway I dont like these comparisons of these 2 coaches.

  • Comment 40, posted at 04.06.14 21:44:49 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • I have to say, I can’t help but wonder what our season and try scoring stats would have looked like if Pat Lambie hadn’t been injured…my feeling is they were on the verge of being a bit more adventurous when he got injured…and then the Loftus loss convinced us to take a safety first approach for the rest of our home games. Does anyone agree?

  • Comment 41, posted at 04.06.14 21:56:56 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 41) : Yup absolutely. In my mind it is the single biggest blow to the Sharks and our game plan this year. Losing Fred so soon after was like rubbing that old red merthiolate into the wound.

  • Comment 42, posted at 04.06.14 22:04:55 by gregkaos Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 41) : @gregkaos (Comment 42) : yes it changed the whole season and the way the Sharks played and yes losing Fred so soon after Pat waas probably JW worst nightmare. I’m just glad it seems that both will be ready for the last couple of pool matches before the playoffs. GO SHARKS!!!!!

  • Comment 43, posted at 05.06.14 17:04:32 by JD Reply
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