Smit’s new Sharks role confirmed

2013-04-17 00:00

THE Sharks yesterday confirmed what everyone knew when they announced that former Springbok rugby captain John Smit will take over as chief executive officer at King’s Park.

Smit has been rushed into the job and will step into his new job on ­July 1, succeeding Brian van Zyl, the veteran Sharks CEO.

Van Zyl is in his last year before retiring.

The Sharks head-hunted Smit and have been in negotiations with him for some months. But for some reason, there was a rush to make the decision public and even some members of the Sharks board — and Van Zyl himself — were shocked when news of Smit’s appointment was last week leaked to a Durban newspaper.

The Sharks’ damage control was in full swing yesterday — a week too late — and it was made clear that Van Zyl had not been “summarily dumped in the middle of Super Rugby season” as staff members at King’s Park initially feared.

Instead Van Zyl will see out his contract “until his pre-agreed retirement date of February 28, 2014”.

He will act as Smit’s mentor until the new year.

The 35-year-old Smit is currently playing for the highly successful Saracens club in London and will transfer to the boardroom within weeks of finishing his playing career.

Attempts to contact Smit in London yesterday proved fruitless, but he did tweet his response to his appointment:

“Massive thanks for all the positive feedback regarding my new role as CEO. I have huge boots to fill after the incredible job BJ Van Zyl has done the last 19 years. Looking forward to an exciting future, Sharks Forever!”

Sharks head coach John Plumtree congratulated Smit on his appointment.

“Many of us have shared special memories with John over the years and we look forward to working with and supporting him in his new capacity.”

Stephen Saad, chairperson of the Sharks board of directors, said that Smit’s appointment would mark the dawn of a new and exciting era for the franchise.

“We have every confidence that he will embrace his new role, with the same leadership, spirit and vigour that he displayed as the most capped Springbok captain and player of all time.”

Smit, in a career spanning 13 years, played all his professional rugby for the Sharks.

“He has become the most respected and decorated rugby player in South African history and his achievements both on and off the field are well documented …” said Saad.

The Sharks chairperson also paid tribute to Van Zyl: “Brian’s knowledge, experience and understanding of the game and its administration is outstanding. At the end of his tenure, he leaves the Sharks in good stead and we salute him for the many years of dedication, commitment and service that he has given.

“In the past two decades, under his stewardship, the Sharks have become the most followed provincial rugby franchise in the southern hemisphere.

“He has the respect of both supporters and adversaries alike.”

Smit’s appointment will be warmly received by supporters and he will have Van Zyl and a strong staff at King’s Park to help him through the difficult opening months.

Publicly, and in spite of the underhand and insensitive way the announcement was leaked, Van Zyl was yesterday putting on a brave face.

“I wish to congratulate John on his appointment and wish him the very best in his new role. He was an inspirational captain and team man and I know that I leave the Sharks in good hands.

“I have a few months to go before retirement and will use this time to ensure that the black-and-white baton is securely placed in John’s hands. I leave a proud man.”

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