Durban - Incoming Sharks chief executive officer John Smit admits that the time was right to change coaches after revealing John Plumtree will leave his post next month and effectively be replaced by Brendan Venter.
The former Springbok captain, who officially takes charge in Durban on July 1, announced at his unveiling press conference on Tuesday that New Zealander Plumtree, in his current position since 2008, will not have his contract extended when his term ends in December.
“It was certainly the most difficult issue that we had and has taken the most time to come to,” Smit told a briefing at Kings Park.
VIDEO: John Smit discusses Plumtree sacking
“John’s contract comes to an end at the end of this year and I did let him know that we wouldn’t be renewing his contract.
“There was a lot of consultation involved in coming to the decision.
“We can only be thankful for what he has done here over the years. I won my first and only Currie Cup with Plum as my coach, so he’s given a lot to this team.
“So it was purely just a decision to freshen up, to create a bit of a change in terms of players’ experiences as well. So it was a difficult decision to get rid of someone as good as him.”
Plumtree guided the team to two Currie Cup titles and a Super Rugby final in his time, but they have mainly struggled this season.
There was mounting speculation over his future at the weekend when reports emerged that former Springbok coach Nick Mallett had been approached to take over.
However, Smit insisted that Venter, who he worked together with at English club Saracens where the latter was also director of rugby, was always his first choice.
“Brendan was the first guy I spoke to,” he explained.
“It’s unfortunate how Nick’s used his supposed contact. There was contact with him to see if there was a role he could play.
“So it was an unnecessary way for Plum to hear the news in the media, but I suppose that’s the game we’re in.”
Smit revealed that former Bok centre Venter, currently involved with the Junior Springboks at the Under-20 World Cup in France, will be in place for his new role in time for the Currie Cup in August, when he will also coach the team.
“I’ve seen first-hand what he can and does do, he’s created something quite special at Saracens in terms of rugby environment and the environment off the field as well,” he said.
“It’s something that appealed to me and the reason why I looked to get him here.”
There was still a chance, though, that there would be a head coach appointed down the line with Smit saying it was something that was “a high priority in terms of the planning strategy going forward”.
The 35-year-old World Cup winner was also determined to turn the Sharks into the best franchise possible.
“What we will be doing is assessing when we are, whether we are on par with the other teams, behind them or ahead of them, and then we’ll spend some time putting a strategy together so that we’re never on par or behind but always in front, and how we can sustain that year after year,” he added.