John Smit: Golden era beckons
Durban - Sharks CEO John Smit introduced his future Director of Rugby
and his own former Springbok coach, Jake White
, and suggested that a golden era of rugby lies ahead for the union, reports Sharks website
editor Michael Marnewick
Despite all the changes experienced, the players have responded magnificently and the former captain of the side paid tribute to them for their fortitude and character displayed during a time of flux.
“I couldn’t help but be impressed with the team when I was chatting to them before the Bulls clash on the weekend,” he explained.
“They’ve been thrown a whole lot of distractions: a complete change of coaching staff, a new environment completely, change of tactics from how they have been playing to how they are playing now and all these guys have been doing is bouncing back in these tight games. It is testament to the true character of where this team is on its way to.
“Time will tell, the intention is to try and create a golden era and I think we have the potential and the means to do so. Jake White
has spoken of his desire to coach internationally again and I think he was worried that it might deter me, but I only want people who want to continually aspire to the highest level. And then the players and coaches around him will all thrive. If in two years he gets an international job, everyone will be better for his two years with us. We want to try and achieve the best in everything we do.”
In introducing his new Director of Rugby on a three year contract, Smit explained that White would be taking over from Brendan Venter, although he would be spending time around the Sharks in this intermediary period and there would be interaction from all parties.
“It’s been a short, but exciting process,” said Smit. “Hearing of Jake’s availability and waiting for him to finally be released from the Brumbies entitled us to engage with him. Opportunities like this don’t come around too often and I guess we’re the lucky team that get to acquire his services.”
Venter’s role at the Sharks also resulted in him choosing his own successor as he would be leaving the Sharks at some stage.
Smit also had words of tribute for Venter’s character.
“Brendan’s commitment to us was done on a handshake, that he’d come and help change the environment and he’s done so unbelievably well in a short period of time. Brendan never asked for a contract. I asked what he wanted, he told me and I thought it was extremely low. That was the end of it. I guess nine flights a week wasn’t something he was going to do for five years though.
“Ironically, Brendan was the one who came to me explaining that he had bumped into Jake on a flight, had a discussion and decided that Jake would be the right guy. So as much as it appears to have been a fairy tale with me chasing him down, it really was something pioneered by Brendan. I think it just shows his maturity and stature and what he wants for the union. He believes that Jake is a world class coach who can take the union to another level."
White expressed excitement about his new role. “I’m delighted to be part of the Sharks,” he admitted. “I never thought in my wildest dreams when I was coming back to South Africa from Canberra for a holiday that I’d be sitting in a press conference next to John, talking about coaching with him. The last couple of months were up and down and we got to the final of the Super Rugby competition but we didn’t manage to win it which was obviously a bit of a let-down.
“However, the planning started before I left in terms of where the Brumbies needed to go. I said to the Brumbies that I thought it was time for change anyway. It suits me to come home, one of my boys is finishing school, the other is nearly finished University. When I was chatting to Brendan on the plane and we were talking about options, and he asked if I would consider it, I thought that if I was upfront with the Brumbies and let them know that there was an opportunity for me, they wouldn’t begrudge me and thankfully, they let me move on.
“I have a CEO who has played 100 times for South Africa, he knows how rugby works, that’s the exciting thing. When I phoned John and chatted to him about the options, he said he wanted me to have fun, not to feel like there is a noose around my neck. I don’t take it lightly to have John as my boss, he’s a guy who understands rugby, he knows exactly where he wants the Union to go, he loves this place. He obviously played here many times, the players know how much he enjoys it here.
“It’s a great challenge and I want to create an environment where we become the best rugby franchise in the world; and John has the same vision.”