Pedrie Wannenburg. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
- Bulls mentor Jake White has sympathised with the toll the death of Pedrie Wannenburg has taken on his family.
- White was clearly shaken by the thought of Wannenburg’s father, Carl, having to receive the news thousands of kilometers away.
- The former Bok coach also paid tribute to the 41-year-old’s brilliant Bulls career.
Perhaps prompted by having a son who’ll be playing 13 000km away from him later this year, Bulls director of rugby Jake White took time to sympathise with the Wannenburg family following the tragic death of ex-Springbok, Pedrie.
White was an integral part of the 41-year-old’s playing career, having picked him as his first-choice blindside flanker in the World Championship-winning Junior Springbok vintage of 2002.
Later on, the 20-cap Wannenburg was a regular member of White’s national squad.
“Our thoughts are with Pedrie’s loved ones,” said the Bulls mentor even before being asked about the incident following his charges’ 46-29 URC victory over Benetton.
“I knew Pedrie well. I first coached him at Under-21 level with the Junior Boks. Later that year he summarily started playing Test rugby as well under Rudolf (Straeuli). He was a fine player. It’s such a sad turn of events.
“He – to all intents and purposes – went on his own to start his new life in the USA and did well. But my sympathies are really with his family.
“It’s not the news you want to hear as a father when you’re thousands of kilometers away.”
Wannenburg, by popular perception, is thought to have saved White’s job as national coach in 2006 when he starred and scored a try in a last-gasp 21-20 victory over the All Blacks in Rustenburg.
Another defeat would’ve placed his position in severe jeopardy.
White would later acknowledge that Wannenburg played a “huge game” in his autobiography.
However, as a man who’s prided his tenure at Loftus on loyalty and passion, the Bulls mentor is far more enamoured by Wannenburg’s status as a franchise legend.
“He’s one of the increasingly rare guys to have played over a 100 times for a team. That statistic of him playing 99 consecutive matches for the Bulls is simply unbelievable,” said White.
“I actually struggle to comprehend that, to play so many games in a row as a forward is astounding.”
White once intimated that one had to be wary of keeping Wannenburg “away from the bright lights” and the player himself admitted to recreational drug use once his Springbok career started to stall.
But he got his career back on track and had successful stints in Ireland and France.
“Pedrie was who he was,” said White.
“We, as the Bulls, and myself really feel so much for the Wannenburgs. They’re in our thoughts throughout.”