Jake White: Bulls boss sees things ‘completely differently’ after near-death experience
Bulls boss Jake White says he sees things completely differently after his near-death experience and is excited to return to work with the United Rugby Championship (URC) side.
White hopes to see a packed Loftus Versfeld when the Bulls host defending URC champions the Stormers on February 18 and that everyone can appreciate the occasion instead of being there for a specific result.
Less than a month after White underwent emergency surgery and spent a week in intensive care to save him from a blood clot that wrecked his small intestine, he said: “I see things completely differently now.”
“Rugby is fantastic, and working in professional sport and coaching in a league like the BKT URC is a privilege.
“I’m still driven to be competitive, and I never want to be in a place where I’m doing this job for the sake of it.
“But, after this experience, I’m working with a completely different framework on how to motivate players and how to get balance in life.
“Life experiences like these really make you grow as a coach. As much as the game, technology and coaching methods have changed considerably in recent years, an experience like this greatly helps you to coach better because the perspective it provides means you talk differently – from a place of life experience.”
White’s new mantra
The 2007 World Cup-winning coach believes his close brush with death will benefit him and the Bulls greatly as it has given him clarity on how to order his life.
“Look, the doctor told me that the first question I asked as I came out of the theatre was, ‘Did the Stormers win?’
“I went in while they were playing Glasgow, and the reason I wanted to know was because of the implications to our campaign and because of my competitive edge. I will never lose that.
“But it also made me think, if we were unbeaten and I had died that night on the operating table, would it have made a difference? Would it have made me feel any different if we had not lost a game all season?
He added: “Lying in intensive care with pipes down your throat gives you time to think clearly. It’s an experience that has taught me about balance and how quickly things can change.
“Rugby isn’t the be-all and end-all, even if you’re as competitive as I am. And what that means is I’m going to be very different as a coach.
“I can now use real-life experience to talk about how quickly it can all be over. I’m going to coach with a focus on playing with a smile – and living it, not just saying it.
“I’m going to actively push that as part of my mantra now, and for the players to genuinely smile because it’s fun, it’s a joy and a privilege to be able to get to play.”
The veteran coach has a fresh perspective as he nears a return with the Pretoria-based side and is excited to get back to working with his players.
“Now I’m looking forward to getting back and being the guy who really keeps loving rugby. It hasn’t always been like that. When you get burnt or scarred by the game, you feel very low at times,” White said.
“But this sort of thing makes you realise, in the bigger scheme, to keep the highs and lows in context. And to keep it real.
“I can’t wait to get back to work, to exude the excitement I want these guys to live by every weekend.”
The Bulls have endured a tough run of results, winning just two of their last seven matches, including three losses in their previous four URC clashes.
Despite the poor results, White remains upbeat, with his charges in a better position this season than last. He revealed that the Bulls strive to become a team that regularly secures a home play-off match in all competitions.
“I see things completely differently; we’re in a wonderful place. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win it, but we’re in it,” he said.
“The truth is we’re not good enough to have the high road in every competition we play in. We’re not Leinster yet.
“We strive to be the team that runs out at home in the playoffs of multiple competitions, but we’re still putting a team together, and sometimes you’ve got to go on the low road and play away in the play-offs.
“But it’s all about perspective,” White added.
“Right now, we are seven points ahead of where we were this time last year, and we made the final.
“And this season, we’ve played more away games than any other team, and that’s in a competition where the win rate away from home is 25%.
“If you put that all together, we are very much alive in this race. And take it from someone who knows the feeling when I tell you, all we need to be is alive.”
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