Venter to keep a low profile with Sharks

2013-07-25 00:00

BRENDAN Venter, the new director of rugby at King’s Park, says he will be maintaining a low profile with the Sharks and will play the role of mentor rather than head coach.

Venter, speaking publicly for the first time since being named as the replacement for John Plumtree, yesterday clarified how he planned to juggle his three jobs (with the Sharks, Saracens in London and as a medical doctor in Somerset West), while remaining based in the Cape.

“It’s going to be really hectic and busy for me,” Venter told Cape Town-based rugby writer and occasional Witness columnist Gavin Rich.

“I am going to have to wake up at 4 am every Monday and fly to Durban. I will spend Monday and Tuesday in Durban, attending all the Sharks meetings and training sessions,” Venter said.

“Wednesday is the day off at the Sharks, so I will fly back to Cape Town on the Tuesday night and put in a full day of work at my medical practice.

“Then it will be back to Durban on the Thursday for the captain’s practice. I will spend Friday at the medical practice before flying to where the Sharks are due to play either on the Friday night or the Saturday.”

He will, as the Saracens’ technical director, continue to fly to London once a month to talk to the coaches while maintaining daily contact with the players and analysing their performances as he has for the past few years.

Venter, who has had several brushes with the British media in recent times, is determined to stay out of the headlines and said CEO John Smit and Brad Macleod-Henderson would be “the face of the Sharks going forward”.

“They are the guys who will be doing the media interviews and be in the spotlight.”

He said there were two reasons for keeping his head down, he told Rich. The first is his “personal reticence” to give media interviews because he had been burned in the past and the second is his role at the Sharks.

“While I intend to be very hands-on as a coach during the coming Currie Cup season, devising tactics and operating as a sounding board, I want Brad to develop into the role as head coach. I am going to be playing a background role to ensure that the right culture is created to enable the team to thrive.”

Venter, who will join the Sharks for the first time at a training camp on Sunday, said there there was no need for radical change.

He would, however, be looking to rotate the players.

“It is my firm belief that rugby teams win matches, rugby squads win championships. It will be our ability as a group that will determine whether we are successful, not our strength as individuals.”

He said there were no obvious areas of weakness in the Sharks squad.

“I’ve been through the stats for this past Super Rugby season. The Sharks conceded the third least tries in the competition, and also scored the third most tries.

“There really wasn’t anything that was particularly poor and, ultimately, I think it was because of the injuries that the team ended up in mid-table.

“My primary focus is to change the culture and try and bring that specialness to the Sharks that John [Smit] is looking for.”

It is this high regard for Smit that persuaded Venter to accept the Sharks’ offer.

“When I spent time with John [at Saracens] I saw so many parallels between him and Morné du Plessis and Francois Pienaar. It is true that if you surround yourself with good people, the rest will follow.”

Venter said he was impressed by Smit’s determination to recreate the positive mood of the 90s when he was a young player and the team was captained by Gary Teichmann.

“I think the Sharks recruitment has been done really well in the past. And it is important to stress that John Plumtree never did anything wrong,” Venter said.

“He was successful as a coach. It’s just that John [Smit] is looking for something different, something that goes beyond just rugby.

“It’s not just about trophies, although those are obviously important, and they will come if you create an environment that is special.”

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