There seems to be a lot happening at the Sharks, in front of and behind the scenes, prior to this weekend’s Super Rugby clash between the Sharks and the Blues.
Apparently John Smit said no to Jake White and Clive Woodward (Both World Cup winning coaches) but chose Brendan Venter in stead, read more below.
More news involving John Smit and outgoing coach John Plumtree suggests that the 2 are to meet to see if they can sort out diferences, the package John Plumtree is demanding and the immediate way forward, read more below too.
With Super Rugby back on the weekend, the speculation is also rife about who will play at flyhalf and in midfield, with a host of centres injured but with Butch James back. Will the flyhalf spot go to Butch or Patrick Lambie and will the other beselected at inside centre?
John Smit said no to Jake White and Clive Woodward:
New Sharks CEO John Smit turned down Brumbies coach Jake White in favour of Brendan Venter to take over the coaching reins at the Durban side.
According to a report on the Beeld website, White and former England coach Clive Woodward were interested in the coaching position. Both White and Woodward have World Cup winners medals as coaches, White with the Springboks in 2007 and Woodward with England in 2003.
Smit instead opted to appoint Venter as Director of Rugby. Smit and Venter worked together during the former Bok skipper’s stint at English club, Saracens.
“I was very excited about what I saw from Brendan at Saracens,” said Smit.
Smit also revealed that the relationship between him and outgoing Sharks coach John Plumtree is tense. Plumtree will lead the side until the completion of this year’s Super Rugby competition.
“I had to break the news to him next to the field like a teacher. I still view Plum as a very good coach, but I feel sometimes as head coach you fall behind regarding your direct involvement. He also maybe didn’t receive the necessary support from the leadership at the very top.
“I also felt it was needed for the players to experience something different. We need something new in the manner in which we play, the way we manage our players and a uniform playing style with all our teams.
“We need a rugby renewal.
Smit said he still hopes he and Plumtree can talk things out. “It will be bad if we walk past each other in Umhlanga Rocks in 10 years’ time and we can’t even look each other in the eye and greet one another.”
John Smit and Plumtree to meet:
Outgoing Sharks coach John Plumtree and new CEO John Smit will hold a crucial meeting on Tuesday evening to resolve the termination of the Kiwi coach’s contract.
The World Cup-winning Springbok skipper opted not to renew Plumtree’s contract in his first action as chief executive at the Sharks, and instead created a new position of Director of Rugby which will be filled by former Saracens boss Brendan Venter.
However, according to The Mercury, Plumtree will bring a legal team to their meeting on Tuesday who will argue that he should be paid out for the full two year contract extension he had been promised by the current CEO Brian Van Zyl.
Van Zyl, who is set to remain at Kings Park until February to mentor Smit, recommended to the board that Plumtree’s contract be extended by two years and as a result the outgoing coach will argue that Van Zyl’s verbal agreement with him is binding.
Smit, who recently returned to Durban after ending his career with Saracens, only officially takes office from July 1, but felt that decisive action was necessary and duly created the position of Director of Rugby which Venter will take up from the start of the Currie Cup.
The two previously enjoyed a healthy relationship as coach and captain at the Sharks, but this will be their first face-to-face meeting since Smit’s decision two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Plumtree is expected to remain in charge for the Sharks’ last three Super Rugby games, and another former Sharks player Brad MacLeod-Henderson is set to take up the role of head coach from the start of the Currie Cup.
MacLeod-Henderson is the current assistant coach of the Shark’ Under-21 team, and is expected to work under Venter with current U21 coach Sean Everritt assisting him.
This all comes with the Sharks’ clash against the Blues just days away, whilst the subsequent South African derbies against the Bulls and the Kings look likely to be Plumtree’s last at the helm at Kings Park.
Flyhalf and Midfield debate:
Butch James and Louis Ludik could find themselves shoring up the Sharks midfield against the Blues at Kings Park on Saturday.
Having lost four of their centres – Meyer Bosman, Tim Whitehead, Francois Steyn and Paul Jordaan – to injury, the Sharks paired regular fullback Ludik with debutant Heimar Williams in midfield and had James at No 10 in last Friday’s match against the Golden Lions.
Although the Sharks succumbed 29-33 at Ellis Park, Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford was pleased with the two stalwarts’ performances and hinted that Ludik may retain the No 13 jersey with James possibly moving to inside centre to make way for the returning Pat Lambie.
“It was most important for us that Louis played well at centre,” Bashford said.
“We wanted him to get some game time because he’s been out injured and Riaan Viljoen has been going well at fullback, so it was an opportunity to get Louis on the field in a different position where we have suffered a number of injuries.
“He was able to get a feeling of what’s to come playing in the midfield and we’re really happy with the way he came through, I don’t think he put a foot wrong. Defensively he was sound and on attack he was willing and took them on all the time.
“We’re also happy with the way Butch came through, it was nice to see him on the field – so there were a lot of positives to come out of that game, although we are disappointed at losing there in the end.
“The midfielders we have available are all quality players who can do a job for us and we take a huge amount of confidence out of that, we just don’t seem to be able to enjoy any form of continuity in selection, it’s a different team each week.
“That’s the hard bit, but it’s what we have to deal with it and there is nothing we can do about it but make sure we get it right.”
The Sharks are also bolstered for Saturday’s match by the return of their Springbok loose forwards Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Ryan Kankowski, as well as the all-Springbok front row of Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis.
“Bismarck has been lacking game time, so it was nice to see him featuring in a high intensity match with the Springboks after having played a few club matches,” said Bashford.
“Getting game time in a Test match was exactly what he needed and the confidence he has gained out of testing himself on a big occasion like an international has been good for him.”
With the unavailability of Franco van der Merwe, Anton Bresler and Pieter-Steph du Toit for the Golden Lions match on the weekend, Edwin Hewitt was drafted in from Griquas and performed admirably, looking to extend his time with the Sharks.
“We were very happy with the way Edwin played against the Lions,” said Bashford.
“The second row is another position we’ve been hard-hit with injuries and then Jandre Marais picked up an injury against the Lions.
“It was really fortunate that we were able to take him up for the game because he will give us another option in selection in a position we need.”
Bashford said the match against the Golden Lions offered them an opportunity to get valuable game time before the resumption of the Super Rugby season and allowed them to evaluate the younger players in the squad.
“Going into the game we were admittedly worried about the team, but the guys did really well in that first half,” explained Bashford.
“It was only really when they got on top of us in the set-piece that we couldn’t really cope with the intensity of their drive and their scrum, so we learned a lot about a few individuals in that game.
“Wiehahn Herbst was injured and when he went off we started to battle and they drove us at will in the second half. But there was some pretty good attack in the first half and being up on the scoreboard early was good for us, it gave us confidence.”