Creating winners

2013-06-15 00:00

STEVEN Saad, chairman of the Sharks board, yesterday offered his wholehearted support to incoming CEO John Smit and said the former Springbok captain was the right man to create a winning culture in the franchise.

Responding to growing criticism of Smit, and a strong attack by former Natal captain Craig Jamieson in a Durban newspaper yesterday, Saad issued a lengthy statement in defence of Smit, who on Tuesday announced that head coach John Plumtree’s contract would not be extended.

Jamieson, captain of the first Natal team to win a Currie Cup, described Smit’s decision to dump Plumtree as unethical and shoddy.

“I think the whole process has been a bit of a disaster. John Smit may be a legend on the rugby field, but he is an U19 player in the business world,” said Jamieson.

Referring to the decision to contract Smit in place of Brian van Zyl, who retires at the end of the year, Saad said: “We needed a CEO who truly understands the engine room of rugby.

“The Sharks board could assist in the commercial running of the business, but the reality is the public barometer of success by which the Sharks are measured is winning. We felt that John would not only stand the best chance of achieving these objectives.

“John enjoys the unanimous support of the entire board.”

Saad said that Smit may have appeared to have acted hastily in terminating Plumtree’s contract, but there were reasons for this.

“John Plumtree has a contract until the end of 2013 … but he needed certainty on his future beyond that.”

Saad said that Smit could have delayed his decision on Plumtree’s future.

“However, consistent with both his own integrity, and the board’s guidance on honesty and transparency, he grasped the nettle. This approach was also in part accelerated by comments attributed to Nick Mallett and taken to end further destructive speculation.

“John Smit has a vision on how he wants to run the Sharks, and the board cannot ask him as CEO to take accountability and then choose his team for him … John has made his choice and I can only ask Shark supporters to get behind him,” said Saad.

It appeared yesterday that the Sharks board could face legal action if they do not enter into a satisfactory exit contract with Plumtree.

Plumtree has steered clear of the media this week, but sources close to him say he is convinced he had a two-year verbal deal with current CEO Van Zyl and members of the Sharks board.

Back in November, shortly after Plumtree had been voted South Africa’s top rugby coach, the Sharks board agreed in principle to an extension of his contract by two years subject to finalising a number of details.

The contract was never signed, but Plumtree (and Van Zyl) assumed that an agreement was in place.

Van Zyl, who for the moment is still the Sharks’ one and only CEO, told Weekend Witness yesterday that he had no idea how new coach Brendan Venter would juggle his jobs at King’s Park (as coach and director of rugby) with his one as technical adviser of Saracens in London and his medical practice in Somerset West.

“I wasn’t involved with any of the negotiations with Venter and I know nothing of his ability as a coach.

“All I do know is that he has a reputation for being a hot-headed and controversial individual.”

Van Zyl said that nearly every current member of the Sharks squad had signed new contracts.

“The only player we are losing is [centre] Meyer Bosman, who is leaving us after Super Rugby to go and play in France.”

Meanwhile, the rumour mill has been busy in Durban, and it is believed that Hilton College first team coach and former Sharks loose forward Brad MacLeod-Henderson and Vodacom Cup coach Sean Everitt are to join Venter on the Sharks’ new coaching panel.

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