Smit's brave new world

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
John Smit is certainly back in Durban! None of this easing into the new role while learning from outgoing Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl for the ex-Sharks and Bok skipper...

Instead that new broom he rode in on is showing some serious wear and tear, having dispatched the current head coach, appointed a Director of Rugby, and appointed two new young coaches to handle the Currie Cup side!

Talk about a bull in a china shop!

And given that John Plumtree arrived at Tuesday’s showdown with a few suites from the best law firm in town, one can only assume that the alleged “Don’t come Monday” note that Smit stuck on the coach’s door as he arrived in town would have cost the union a fairly serious little “amicably agreed upon confidential” payout.

And new Director of Rugby, Brendan Venter, even after negotiating his way to being able to remain based in the Strand (in the Western Cape) to manage his medical practice while staying on as a consultant to Saracens, will not have come cheaply.

But perhaps, knowing that the new hands on coaching staff, reporting into the brilliant, but headstrong Venter, would have to be young and malleable, rather than experienced and wanting to challenge the new Director of Rugby on certain methods and methodologies, the new Sharks CEO is happy to incur these costs given that future coaching costs will be substantially decreased?

This with due respect to the 37-year-old the current Director of Rugby at Hilton College, Brad MacLeod-Henderson, who seems destined to fill the head coach position come the Currie Cup, and Under-21 head coach, Sean Everitt, who is tipped to be his assistant.

And while ex-assistants Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards will be the main okes in black and white for the rest of the Super Rugby campaign, it appears they are likely to make like Plumtree at some stage.

If the budget allows, perhaps a copy of John P. Kotter’s book “Leading Change” to all that survive the new broom?

Kotter, the Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, believes the pressure on organisations to change will only increase, but concerns himself re the methods employed by managers because they mostly fail to alter behaviour.

Basically it is all good and well to make Venter the Director of Rugby, and MacLeod-Henderson the head coach, but what have the likes of the Sharks board, and more importantly, the players, some no doubt paid a lot more than MacLeod-Henderson, bought into the process?

Or does Smit just dispatch those who question what he is doing and bring in others who don’t?

The above might come across as slightly cynical, but I am a fan of change, especially if it rocks the still old school, still mostly amateur rugby set up in South Africa. We need change!

And much like I punt for Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to use the young, talented players coming through the system, so do we need to see the same on the coaching front. How else will the likes of Chean Roux and John Dobson be given a chance?

In Durban, with Venter seemingly set to be a little more hands off than Rassie Erasmus was in the Cape, MacLeod-Henderson and Everitt, while not being fed to the lions, will be given a fair amount of responsibility, with backing from their CEO and DOR. It’s their time to “use it or lose it” as they say in refereeing parlance.

But my word, this opportunity for the two young coaches comes amidst flux that would unsettle a hibernating bear. And beware a tired, hungry bear!

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt …

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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