Canberra – World Cup-winning coach Jake White has been granted a release from the final two years of his contract with Super Rugby’s ACT Brumbies, and has strongly been linked to a reunion with John Smit at the Sharks.
The Brumbies said in a statement today that White asked to be released from the Canberra-based Brumbies last Friday while on vacation in South Africa and had been in contact with ACT chief executive Andrew Fagan and senior players.
“I’d have to say that I was shocked when Jake called to tell me that he was intending to stay in South Africa,” Fagan said in a statement confirming White’s surprise departure after he led ACT to this year’s Super Rugby final.
New Sharks chief executive Smit, White’s captain when he coached South Africa to the World Cup title in 2007, confirmed a reunion at the Sharks was possible after Fagan said White’s immediate future was back in South Africa.
“Could Jake White add value (to the Sharks)? Of course he can,” Smit said today. “He is a very successful coach with an amazing track record. We would welcome an opportunity to engage with him, should it so arise.”
White also was linked with the Cape Town-based Stormers, having recently been spotted at one of the team’s training sessions, according to reports. However, the Durban-based Sharks outfit seems the logical place for the 50-year-old White, who immediately made Smit his captain when he was appointed Springbok coach in 2004. The pair went on to win world and southern hemisphere titles together.
Smit took over as Sharks chief executive this year and removed John Plumtree as head coach in one of his first moves.
Meanwhile, Fagan said assistant coaches Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham would take control of the ACT team in the short term while management decided on a permanent replacement. Fagan earlier told Australian media that the new head coach would be either Fisher or former Australia flyhalf Larkham.
“Look, it’s far from ideal that Jake is leaving right now, but in saying that, we have two outstanding assistant coaches,” Fagan said.
White guiding the Brumbies to the Super Rugby final was a huge improvement for the team, despite it eventually losing to New Zealand’s Chiefs in the decider.
However, White missed out on the Australia coaching job in July when Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie was chosen to replace New Zealander Robbie Deans. At the time, White said he felt he was not considered because the Australian Rugby Union did not want to hire consecutive non-Australians as coach.
White’s ambition to return to international coaching was a major factor behind his decision to go home, Fagan said.
“To have Jake decide that he wants to pursue his international coaching ambitions from South Africa at this late stage is disappointing,” Fagan said. “He has achieved a great deal for the Brumbies and we felt he certainly had more to offer. But I understand his reasons for seeking the release. He was obviously very disappointed in missing out on the Wallabies job and he sees his best opportunity to further his international coaching career is from South Africa.
“He also has two sons who live in South Africa who he misses a great deal, so when I sit back and look at it, I can understand why he has made his decision.”
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