Catching up with Jake

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 19 Feb 2014 at 08:00
Tagged with : , ,

I was fortunate enough to have another opportunity to speak with Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White yesterday, to understand a little more of his thinking after the team’s great opening round win over the Bulls.

One thing that comes through very strongly is the respect that White has for the three-time champions, a respect that makes such a convincing victory over them that much sweeter. “Obviously the result,” he says, when I ask him what the most pleasing thing about the game was, “but not just the fact that we scored four tries in Durban in February, which is getting a lot of attention. It’s not often that any team gets to score four tries against the Bulls in a tough South African derby, so the fact that we managed it against such good opposition is what makes it special.”

Not that there isn’t still plenty of room for improvement, though, as one would expect after just one week. “I think we made life a little tough for ourselves at times, by being indisciplined in the way we contested at the maul and also on the deck,” White said. “Then again, given how we know the Bulls pride themselves on forward play and how much focus they place on that aspect, we’re pretty pleased with how well we managed to keep them out. I think the boys showed big ticker on defence, particularly in the first half when they were hammering away at us for 15 minutes but didn’t get through.”

White also pointed out that the Sharks, through having more active Springbok players, had essentially had a lot less time together than the Bulls had leading up to the game. “A lot of the things that didn’t work out so well will definitely get better as we get to know each other better, ” he said. “We felt that we gave them a few too many soft exits at scrum time, by conceding penalties and free kicks for not keeping it steady and square. We are a proud team when it comes to our scrum work, so we’ll definitely look to ensure we get better value from that set piece.”

The conversation naturally drifted towards props, and we spoke a little about yesterday’s news regarding the signing of Matt Stevens. White clearly feels that Stevens is the sort of player who can provide stability, as well as a solid option on either side of the scrum, while the Sharks look to bring through the next generation of young front rankers. “It’s no secret that Jannie is getting on now and that Beast is just a year or two behind him. We need to make sure that we’re developing the next tier of guys and Matt is the kind of player that allows you to blood youngsters around him and can help guide them through. The fact that he can easily play on either side of the scrum just gives us options; we can use him at 3 while we blood a young loosehead, or the other way around.” Expect Stevens, in other words, to be the old man in the front row come Currie Cup time, while the younger props and hookers learn the ropes. The Sharks battled for real scrum supremacy during last year’s Currie Cup campaign and the recruitment of the England international can only help in that area.

What about Thomas du Toit, though, the phenomenal 18-year-old prop from Paarl Boys High who was a shock inclusion in the Sharks Super Rugby squad? It’s clear that White thinks highly of him. “He comes from a great school, a great prop factory and he’s a really big unit at 130kgs and 1.9-something. Sometimes you are lucky enough to catch one of these youngsters whose just have the whole package; The Sharks picked up John Smit as a 19-year-old and he went on to play 100-plus tests for his country. Maybe du Toit can be the same?” White confirmed that the Sharks have obtained all the necessary clearances from SARU in order for du Toit to play senior rugby (there are special requirements that apply to under-19 front rankers) and that the plan is very much to blood him in the competition this year.

We’d like to thank the Sharks and Jake White for making this chat possible.


  • Great work Rob. It’s nice that you gave access to JW and to see the way they think. Often we criticize without really knowing the way coaches strategise.

  • Comment 1, posted at 19.02.14 08:15:55 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • No question that Matt Stevens is an outstanding acquisition for the Sharks. I’d like to see Lourens Adriaanase given an opportunity to start a few games soon too. On the evidence of last Saturday it definitely wouldn’t weaken the team in any way πŸ˜†

  • Comment 2, posted at 19.02.14 08:21:55 by Greg Reply

  • Very cool that the official fan site of the franchise get to have interaction with the coach, and is not forced to get said info via other sport sites.

    What is the official height of that prop? 1.9-something leaves a 9cm room for interpretation.

  • Comment 3, posted at 19.02.14 08:24:30 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • He is clearly a clever man and i hate to say it but he should probably be coaching internationally. I am a little skeptical about playing thomas du toit. Yes he is a large speciman but its one thing scrumming against school boys and even live scrum practises but its a totally different thing scrumming against say the franks brothers or a steven kitshoff for example. But best of luck to the guy.

  • Comment 4, posted at 19.02.14 08:32:52 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 4) : Wasn’t Kitsoff only 19 and just out of school when he debuted for the Stormers a couple of seasons back? As for JW’s coaching ambitions, I’m sure that being with the Sharks is exactly where he wants to be at the moment: what a CV-enhancer to have coached the 2014 S15 winners to their first title! πŸ™‚

  • Comment 5, posted at 19.02.14 08:38:46 by Greg Reply

  • @Greg (Comment 5) : Agreed, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

    The coaches will not be throwing him in the deep end I believe, as he will be scrumming against an all Springbok pack, at practice time.

  • Comment 6, posted at 19.02.14 09:18:53 by Bump Reply

  • @Greg (Comment 5) : Yes he def was and he did hav potential but in those first couple years he did get abused at scrum time. So yes it will be a learning curve for the guy i just hope he is managed correctly as he could be a big asset. But is no use if he picks up niggling injuries now that continue to plague his career

  • Comment 7, posted at 19.02.14 09:27:59 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Bump (Comment 6) :
    Good point!

  • Comment 8, posted at 19.02.14 09:29:15 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @SheldonK (Comment 7) : A Big Asset you say lol

  • Comment 9, posted at 19.02.14 09:31:19 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 9) : He is an all round solid player haha @Bump (Comment 6) : That will certainly help and he will learn lots from the Bok front row. But id much rather test him against the Lions than say Stormers or Waratahs. And mayb he can get a few Vodacom Cup caps in the meantime

  • Comment 10, posted at 19.02.14 09:37:41 by SheldonK Reply

  • Thanks, very informative article. Was good to hear John Smit mention that Stevens wants to play in the currie cup, when we will loose all our experienced props. Having a strong scrum will help us keep momentum after the SR and going into next year’s RS campaign as well!

  • Comment 11, posted at 19.02.14 10:00:57 by HeinF Reply

  • That interview proves what I’ve been saying since the Bloemfontein debacle. The Sharks have a plan, have tactics in place and know where they’re going. Cant say the same for the others.

  • Comment 12, posted at 19.02.14 10:01:45 by Caratacus Reply

  • Thanks for that, Rob It’s great to hear about the guys from the “horse’s mouth”

  • Comment 13, posted at 19.02.14 10:19:00 by [email protected] Reply

  • It is so refreshing to see that since John Smit has arrived our communication out of the sharks tank has improved drastically. And it helps allay the supporters fears when we know where our beloved team is headed and direction.

  • Comment 14, posted at 19.02.14 10:21:57 by Dunx Reply

  • @Dunx (Comment 14) : It’s amazing. Almost as if all the laager-mentality paranoia evaporated when Brian van Zyl and, to a lesser extent, Plumtree left Kings Park.

  • Comment 15, posted at 19.02.14 11:30:02 by rhineshark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Spirit of Rugby
  • @Dunx (Comment 14) : Yes it is hey. John Smit does appear to be leaving no stone unturned in his goal to make the Sharks the best place to be. There is something special about having a CEO whose is so passionate about Rugby, the Sharks and has the unique understanding from a players perspective. I read somewhere that he finds it almost unbearable watching the game from his box seat where he has to keep his emotions in check.

  • Comment 16, posted at 19.02.14 11:47:25 by gregkaos Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • There’s good communication coming out of the Sharks, certainly helps to have a coach and CEO that are able to express themselves and know how to manage the media.

  • Comment 17, posted at 19.02.14 12:18:19 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • Crazy that an u/19 front rower is gonna be playing super rugby this year.
    Just increidble really.

  • Comment 18, posted at 19.02.14 13:25:45 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • Thanks Rob, great article. I can only echo what other have said about the privilege of having access to Jake White. There’s some really special happening at the tank and it makes me want to move to Durban

  • Comment 19, posted at 19.02.14 13:26:48 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 19) :

    Your priorities are all over the place lol.

  • Comment 20, posted at 19.02.14 13:34:53 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 18) : actually, I think he might still be 18 πŸ™‚

  • Comment 21, posted at 19.02.14 13:37:48 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • yeah, Thomas only turns 19 on 5 May πŸ™‚

  • Comment 22, posted at 19.02.14 13:38:31 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 21) : @robdylan (Comment 22) :

    You realise u/19 means 18 or younger, right?

  • Comment 23, posted at 19.02.14 14:22:03 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 17) : It also helps that the CEO and coach are guys with the best possible credentials, therefor the media treats them with respect . . .

  • Comment 24, posted at 19.02.14 14:24:03 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 20) : You spend two hours driving two blocks in Joburg traffic only to have your car hit 10 meters before you reach your destination and we’ll chat again.

  • Comment 25, posted at 19.02.14 15:11:19 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 25) : Well, I’m about to embark on the 60 km drive back home, which should take about 40 minutes, giving me just enough time to listen to the new Angel Olsen album. Tough life! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 26, posted at 19.02.14 16:09:04 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song

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