Jake White after near-death experience: 'I see things completely differently now'

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Jake White (Gallo)
Jake White (Gallo)

Following a dangerous health scare in which he was hospitalised and required surgery, Bulls coach Jake White is on the comeback trail with renewed vigour.

READ | Stormers in the Manie: Star flyhalf Libbok 'looking good' for Sharks

He has a new outlook, too, one in which he wants his players and supporters to appreciate the joy that the game of rugby brings.

But the desire to win still burns bright as well.

"I see things completely differently now," White said, almost a month after emergency surgery and a period in intensive care to save him from a blood clot caused problems with his small intestine.

"Rugby is fantastic, and working in professional sport and coaching in a league like the 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.”

While White still has the drive and desire to take the Bulls towards the URC and Champions Cup titles, his health scare 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?'," said White.

"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?

"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 the 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.


"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. 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."

White is raring to go as he resumes his role in charge of the Bulls.

"I can't wait to get back to work, to exude the excitement I want these guys to live by every weekend," White said.

The Bulls are next in action on Saturday, 18 February when they welcome the Stormers to Loftus Versfeld.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()