I know the challenges of top Sharks job, says Smit

2013-04-18 00:00

JOHN Smit (35) always wanted to give something back to Sharks rugby, but being offered the CEO role did come as a surprise.

Speaking on Talk Radio 702 yesterday, Smit said that he was surprised to be offered the position so soon as he had set his sights on finishing his playing days at Toulouse in France next year.

Said Smit: “I had said I wanted a job with the Sharks and would like to play a role in taking the team forward. My plan was to finish at Toulouse next year and see from there what opportunities lay ahead.

“I was surprised to get a call from the board offering the CEO position when Brian Van Zyl retires next year. It’s not something you say yes to immediately.

“It takes some thought and it’s a job and responsibility which I need to know I can do properly.”

Smit played for 15 years with the Sharks and knows the operational set up well. This was something that gave him the confidence to accept the position.

“Having played so long in Durban I know the people involved in administration matters and know I can rely on their help, advice and guidance.

“This went a long way in shaping my final decision,” he said.

Indeed it must have. Talk in rugby and sport circles has centred on whether Smit, an out-and-out player as opposed to someone with office and administration experience, would handle the pressure as head of one of world rugby’s most impressive brands.

Asked whether he would be able to adapt to the change and have to deal with politics, financial matters, various councils and such, Smit said: “No doubt it’s going to be interesting, especially the first six months. If I did not understand the challenge that comes with the job, I would not have said yes.”

While acknowledging there were many areas where he had no experience, Smit was confident of the support from his board, saying: “There are successful business people on the Sharks board who have been involved for a long time.

“I am confident I can rely on their support, experience and mentorship as I take up the reins and move forward.

“This will make it easier for me. I want to learn, be involved and take the Sharks to a new level.”

While at Saracens, Smit saw first hand how CEO Edward Griffiths turned the club from what was seen as a “drinking” club to the top of English rugby.

Said Smit: “Thinking about it, Edward was a blessing in disguise. I sat in his pocket as such, able to get close to the board and see how he and the club functioned.

“It was the start of a process where I understood and learnt things I can now put in the mix to make the Sharks work.”

Smit takes up his new post from July 1, being mentored by Van Zyl who sees out his contract until retiring at the end of February next year, after 20 years as Sharks CEO.

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