White out for Last Special Day as His Coaching Career Comes Full Circle
Byline: By Simon Thomas Western Mail
Jake white's coaching career will come full circle today when he takes charge of South Africa for the final time in a Test match.
The opposition will be Welsh, just as it was seven years ago when he started out on a path that was to ultimately lead him to World Cup glory.
"It's quite amazing really," said the Springboks boss.
"My first ever senior coaching job was as caretaker-coach of the Natal Sharks for a game against Newport.
"It's ironic that my last Test match should be against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
"Hopefully we will play as well as the Sharks did that day against Newport."
The game in question was a benefit match for former South African skipper Gary Teichmann held at Kings Park, Durban, in June 2000, in front of a 40,000-strong crowd.
Teichmann led a Newport side that included the likes of Shane Howarth and Alix Popham, with Natal featuring Test stars such as Andre Joubert, Henry Honiball, James Small, Steffan Terblanche and Gaffie du Toit.
It was the home team, coached by the then little-known White, that came out on top 52-25, despite tries for the Black & Ambers from Teichmann, Popham, Jason Forster and future Harlequins and Wales prop Ceri Jones.
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then.
Welsh rugby has gone regional and White has gone all the way to the summit of the game, guiding South Africa to the Webb Ellis Trophy.
Now, after four years in the job, his hugely successful reign as Boks coach is about to come to an end and he views the clash in Cardiff as a fitting Test swansong.
"From my point of view, it's great that my last game is in a rugby country like Wales, in a massive stadium like the Millennium," he said.
"There are only a few countries that have rugby as part of their history and the way they grow up and Wales is one of those.
"So to be playing at the Millennium, which is the old Cardiff Arms Park - an unbelievable ground in the history of the game - is very special."
White admits emotions will be running high within the Springboks camp ahead of kick-off.
The 43-year-old former schoolteacher has built a real family spirit since taking up the reins in 2003 and has worked with a number of the players all the way through from age-group level, having previously coached the under-19s and under-21s.
"It's going to be a massive game from an emotional point of view," he said.
"It has been an unbelievable honour and an unbelievable privilege to coach this team.
"I'm very lucky that I've had a very special group of players to work with and a wonderful captain in John Smit.
"It will certainly be emotional when it nears the end of my 54th and final Test match.
"It's going to quite difficult. You never really know how to handle it when it's finished. It's not something you can read up in a manual.
"It has been a special year for me and will be even more so if we can end my tenure as coach with a victory."
White says his players are determined to round off their World Cup-winning year in style.
"They don't want to spoil it at the last hurdle," he said. "They want to finish off on a high.
"It's amazing how much pressure they are feeling. Defending the crown is a unique situation. …