‘Not the way I wanted to go’

2013-07-01 00:00

INTERNATIONALLY renowned rugby coach John Plumtree is to quit South Africa and ply his trade overseas.

Shortly after watching the Sharks beat the Auckland Blues in Durban on Saturday evening, Plumtree broke his silence on his controversial axing by incoming CEO John Smit three weeks ago, and spoke of his plans for the future.

The New Zealand-born Plumtree has served the Sharks as a player for a decade (1988-97) and then as head coach for six years from 2008 to 2013.

Now he has been lost to rugby in this country as he ruled out coaching elsewhere in South Africa.

“The Sharks will always be my family and Durban my home and, for this reason, I will never coach another South African team,” he said.

The 47-year-old Plumtree said that after his many years in the province he felt like a South African rather than a New Zealander.

“It’s incredible to think that my time is up, but that happens to all of us at some point when we put ourselves in positions of leadership.”

Plumtree said he had been offered a temporary job as a television analyst by SuperSport.

“I’ll do that until my kids finish their school year and then we are heading off overseas. There are a couple of offers out there but nothing definite yet.”

Plumtree’s ties with the Sharks were ended last week when he met with Smit and board members and negotiated an exit contract.

The terms of the agreement are confidential and Plumtree would not describe his emotions.

“All the talking has been done, every­thing has been said, not by me but by others. The support I’ve had has been absolutely unbelievable. I never meant it to be this way. I was just watching it all unfold and I’m sorry it happened like this.

“As a professional coach, you don’t always get to choose the way you exit.”

He said that the pressure he and his family had been under once he had been told his days were numbered resulted in his terminating his contract before the end of Super Rugby.

“Look, I’m a tough bugger. I can take it, but when the people around you are hurting, when they’re hurting for you, it’s not nice.”

He said he had prepared his family for these dark times.

“I’ve kept telling my boys that this job is not forever. They’ve now had the short speech that the time has come.”

He said when he first came to Durban as a young New Zealander (in 1988) he had been “amazed at the passion for rugby in the province and the incredible support offered the team”.

“Being involved under Mac (Ian McIntosh) and the fantastic team of the 90s was where I first felt my real passion for this jersey. As a coach, I was fortunate enough to pass that passion on to many players who have represented the Sharks.

“It’s been a massive journey for me and there is so much I will miss. There has been some heartache and some glory, but all of the seven finals I’ve been involved in (two as a player and five as coach) have been fantastic events.

“It was not the way I would have liked to go out, but I didn’t have the choice. I work for people and they make the rules. It was really important to me that I left this town with my integrity in place. I hope it is.

“I will miss so much about this place, I just love it here. It’s been great and it was a privilege to coach here.”

Smit said on June 11 that Brendan Venter, named as Plumtree’s replacement, would coach the Sharks’ Currie Cup squad when he arrived from Cape Town in August.

This has now apparently changed and rookie coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson, in charge of rugby at Hilton College, and Sean Everitt will be in charge of the Sharks with Venter directing from above (and from the west).

Smit has swopped — at massive expense — a respected, experienced, full-time coach for a doctor who is based in Cape Town, has two other jobs and will commute to Durban.

Doesn’t sound like a great deal, does it?

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