Sharks’ professionalism a pleasant surprise for new forwards coach

2013-12-03 00:00

PAUL Anthony, who has taken charge of the Sharks’ forwards ahead of next year’s Super Rugby campaign, admits he has been pleasantly surprised by the attitude of the players.

Anthony, the highly successful Blue Bulls U19 coach, has joined Jake White at King’s Park and has been heavily involved in the pre-season preparation of the Sharks squad. And he concedes that the happy-go-lucky impression he had built up of Sharks’ rugby while in Pretoria was the wrong one.

“I have been hugely impressed by the players’ attitudes. They are willing and work hard. My perception of the Sharks before coming here was that they were easy-come-easy-go, but I have found the players to be responsive. Training is going great and I’m really enjoying this experience.”

He is also delighted with the professionalism at King’s Park.

“What I’ve seen is fantastic. The facilities are way better than I had anticipated.”

Former Springbok captain John Smit, who has taken over as Sharks CEO, has surrounded himself with coaches who were close to him during his playing career.

White, his former Springbok coach, is the new director of rugby, and Brad Macleod-Henderson, who played alongside Smit for the Sharks, is now the technical and individual skills coach. Brendan Venter, who took over as the Sharks’ director of rugby for the recent Currie Cup season and is now “just a phone call away”, worked alongside Smit at Saracens in London.

But Smit has delved back into his schoolboy experiences in appointing Anthony to his coaching staff.

Anthony was Smit’s coach at Pretoria Boys’ High and the Sharks’ new forward coach says the long relationship between the two was behind his move to Durban.

“The chance to join the Sharks’ management was an exciting challenge. Smitty and I have known each other for a long time.”

White’s assistants at the Sharks (Anthony, Macleod-Henderson and Sean Everitt) will be relatively inexperienced but Anthony believes his teaching background has provided him with the right pedigree.

“If you look at all the successful South African coaches, like Heyneke Meyer and Jake White, they were all teachers. So that’s a positive sign,” he says. “And working alongside the likes of Brad MacLeod­-Henderson should be a great experience.”

Anthony says he had been surprised to receive Smit’s mid-year offer of a coaching post in Durban.

“I’d been at the Bulls for almost 10 years when Smitty contacted me, saying he’d like me to come over to the Sharks.

“My contract was ending at the end of this season [2013] and I accepted his offer.”

He enjoyed great success with the Bulls U19 sides, featuring in seven finals.

“Unfortunately, we were losing finalists in three consecutive seasons, losing by three-point margins, before finally winning this year. It was good to be there, good to win it this year when the team won all 14 matches in the competition. It meant ending off my career at the Bulls on a high note.”

Anthony is clearly excited about working alongside White and learning from the World Cup-winning coach.

“What Jake has brought in at the Sharks might be new to me, but I really believe it is the way to go.

“I’m a big believer in intensity in training and although I work only with the forwards, my sessions are very intense. I believe that the fitter and stronger you are, the more you will be in the game,” says Anthony.

“I believe in hard work. As Jake says ‘knowing where you are going’ is vital, and so is attitude and camaraderie.

“Once those are put in place and balanced with the technical know-how and the knowledge of where you are going, I think success will follow.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Super Rugby is a very difficult competition. It is relentless, week-in-week-out hard work. It’s a massive challenge,” Anthony added.

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