Departing ACT Brumbies coach Jake White met with captain Ben Mowen on Wednesday night to detail his ‘‘heartfelt’’ reasons for leaving the club with two years left on his contract.
But while Mowen admitted to being disappointed, the skipper and Wallabies forward said White left with the players’ blessing and there was no ill feeling toward the coach who rebuilt the Brumbies.
Speaking exclusively to Fairfax Media just hours after the revelations, Mowen praised White for the work he had done and said there were no grudges against the former World Cup-winning coach.
It's understood White is close to finalising a deal with the Durban Sharks to link with his former South African captain John Smit at the franchise.
Some Brumbies players found out about White's departure on social media.
But Mowen met with White two weeks ago to discuss his future and when White revealed his personal reasons, Mowen decided against talking him out of leaving.
‘‘I was aware things were bubbling under the surface and he was missing home quite a bit,’’ Mowen told Fairfax Media from Cape Town.
‘‘He was missing his two boys, Clinton and Wes, and wanted to spend a lot more time with them. [White] wanted to know where I thought the Brumbies program was at.
‘‘I think we're in a great position of strength and the program of a whole in the past two years has been fast-tracked.
‘‘But his thoughts moved to maybe this was the right time for him to step aside. He said there's never a right time, but there's a good time.
‘‘And he has a lot of faith in this group taking it forward and it was a good time.’’
White transformed the Brumbies. He started his tenure after the worst season in the club's history in 2011 when they finished 13th.
When he started in Canberra, there were just three current Wallabies on his roster.
But the transformation was so great that the Brumbies made the Super Rugby final this season and now boast more than a dozen current Wallabies, including Mowen.
White made Mowen his surprise captain at the start of the 2012 season.
White always had a vision for a succession plan.
He planned to stay in Canberra for four seasons and then have Stephen Larkham take over as head coach.
Larkham or fellow assistant coach Laurie Fisher are likely to be appointed as White's replacement in the coming weeks.
It's understood the playing group feels Fisher or Larkham can help take the Brumbies forward and if one of them was appointing the transition from White would be smooth.
White didn't want to disappoint Brumbeis fans, but hoped they would understand his rationale.
‘‘The one thing I've always done is trust Jake's judgement,’’ Mowen said.
’’Emotionally we're very disappointed. We're not going to hide that, he's so well loved and respected by the playing group.
‘‘We've got two great coaches in Laurie and Bernie [Larkham] ... they've helped build the squad. It's never just been Jake, the three of them have created what we've got.
‘‘There's a great confidence in what we've achieved.’’
Mowen is in Cape Town with the Wallabies preparing to play the Springboks at Newlands on Sunday morning Australian time.
‘‘There's certainly no [anger towards Jake] ... it was initially disappointing but the human side takes over,’’ Mowen said.
‘‘Family is the most important thing and I understand where he's coming from. He's putting that priority at the top of his list.
‘‘For him to push the program to where it is on the opposite side of his family, it says loads about him as a person but in his own words it's time to go back and re-strengthen those bonds.
‘‘When someone says that to you and it's so heartfelt, you can't do anything but support them. Initially I did think I would try to talk him out of it. But I'm never going to try to talk someone out of putting their family first.’’