So there is life after rugby after all. What a relief to learn that Jake White is going to be gainfully employed when his time as national rugby coach officially runs out at the end of this month.
Like most South African’s who hoped that the bungling bureaucrats would get off the rugby gravy train to get on with earning an honest living and leave Jake to mastermind the defence of the world title in four years' time, I was expecting Jake to turn up in a foreign coaching job.
His appointment instead to a "marketing" post at a Cape Town-based company came as something of a surprise.
One thing about the appointment is that it takes us back several decades – to the days before professionalism in the sport to when rugby superstars such as the legendary Piet Greyling and other great Boks of his era were hired by philanthropic and rugby-mad captains of industry or well-to-do farmers from the winelands of the Cape to the super-rich tobacco estates in the former Northern and Southern Rhodesia.
Employed as "sales representatives", "marketing" or "brand managers" and "farm managers", many of Southern Africa’s premier sporting talents in former amateur codes such as rugby and cricket were hired to perform on the field of play rather than in the role suggested by the titles on their business cards.
Designed as a fairly transparent effort to bypass the ban on "pay-for-play" rules in the strict amateur codes of the time, some of our "shamateur" sporting heroes did go on to carve highly successful business careers for themselves after their sporting days were over.
I’m not suggesting for one moment that Jake’s new job is a front or that there is anything underhanded or charitable about his appointment. In fact, the value that he, or any other "recently retired" sporting personality for that matter, brings to a "brand" is grossly underrated.
The fact that Jake’s new job will enable him to continue making a contribution to the sport through his coaching advisory role is to be welcomed.
Here’s wishing Jake all the very best for the future. And at the same time let’s congratulate his new employer for reminding us that our recently retired sporting heroes don’t always have to be consigned to an expert commentator’s role on television for us to benefit from their experience.
– David Bryant