The clock read 0:00. Canada needed one more defensive stand. They were a turnover away from claiming their second straight Pan-Am Games gold.
Up stepped Sean White. As Argentina’s Juan Tuculet pushed forward White came in from the side with a big tackle as Tuculet tried to offload. The ball was knocked forward, Nathan Hirayama gathered and kicked for touch and Canada had gold on home soil in Toronto.
“I think the happiest I’ve ever been in a game was making the last tackle against Argentina in the final and seeing the offload hit the ground and knowing the game was over and we had won,” White said. “The happiest out of game moment was getting the gold medal around my neck and finding my parents in the crowd. That will stay with me for a lifetime.”
Over a nine-year career, White wasn’t always the focal point. But that tackle was heard all around the world. A year later, White has decided to step away from the international scene.
“With not qualifying for the Olympics in Rio, and after a three year buildup to that and the collective let down the team had after, it was kind of tough to find the next goal,” White said. “The Sevens World Cup is two years away and I didn’t think I could be motivated for more two more years to get there so not only that but my age, my career, not having done school, it was kind of a mix of everything on the timing side.”
Over his sevens career, White scored 29 tries, the 20th most in Canadian history while his 149 career points rank 22nd. He appeared in 32 HSBC Sevens Series tournaments making his debut at the Wellington Sevens in 2009 and this past season played in all 10 series stops.
White was also a key member of the 2013-14 squad that finished a program best of sixth and is a two-time Pan-Am Games winner having claimed gold in 2011 and 2015 after victories over Argentina in both finals.
On the 15s front, White won 27 test caps for his country after making his debut against Japan in November 2009. He would score two test tries (against Belgium and Portugal in 2010) and was a member of Canada’s 2011 Rugby World Cup squad where he featured in matches against France, Japan and New Zealand.
“Words can’t describe the feeling of pulling on the Canadian jersey,” White said. “I don’t think I’ll ever find a feeling that describes it. Those are the memories I’ll cherish. Getting to travel the world to play a game with your best friends and for your country is something that I could say everyone in the world would love to do and to get to do it for nine years is very special. I owe a lot to rugby for that.”
While White may not possess any Canadian records, he isn’t bothered. But he knows he filled the role he was asked to do and was a cog in the machine that made the Canadian men’s sevens and 15s program tick over the past decade. But the off-field recognition means just as much to White as does a scoring a hat-trick against New Zealand.
“The joy I can bring a 12 year old to watch a game or showing up at their school and seeing their excitement, those are memories I always remember,” White said. “I cherish those moments over total points and wins here and there. You get to play a beautiful game like rugby and get to impart that onto children and families.”
The Victoria native, who is widely known for his cooking abilities, is currently working at the Hawk and Hen downtown but in January he will pursue his career at Camosun College where he will be doing a two-year social work program. He also plans to play some rugby on the side too.
“I always knew I wanted to work with people,” White said. “If I can have an affect on families, children or anybody outside of rugby on a daily basis that’s something that will make me happy in a career.
“Now I’m going to be a 28-year-old freshman at a community college and I couldn’t be more excited.”