After John Plumtree was let go in 2013, Brendan Venter filled in alongside Brad Macleod-Henderson and Sean Everitt for the rest of that year, before Jake White was appointed for 2014. It was a high-profile signing, but it didn’t last the year amid talk of a player rebellion against the former Springbok coach.
“We were thrown a curve-ball with Jake and his exit last October was like a bride being left at the altar. It was uncontrollable and it’s inconsequential who wanted who to leave. We wanted Gary Gold to fulfil the same role as Jake, but he couldn’t get out of his contract and arrived late, with Brenden running the show until then.
“But there’s just been too much change in terms of coaching, so Gary has to continue. I know there’s been media speculation about him no longer coaching, but that’s only for the Currie Cup. Gary will continue to be heavily involved with the Super Rugby squad and will coach them. The other six months of the year, he’ll be involved in planning and procurement and improving the academy. We are busy finalising a coach to replace Brad Macleod-Henderson for the Currie Cup,” Smit told The Citizen.
While Smit wants a more settled atmosphere in terms of the coaching structure, he says the academy and the pipeline delivering talent to the Sharks team needs to be shaken up.
“In terms of the academy, every other union copied us, but it’s without doubt not performing the way we want it too. It’s a work in progress, we need to tweak it, because that’s the only way we’re going to be leaders. There are 200 students at the academy at any one time and the majority pay for that. They think they have what it takes and they share the fields and the gym with the professional squad.
“We pay the fees for those we decide are worth backing, those we’ve identified with talent. The academy also gives us an unbelievably strong club structure because the players are billeted out to the Premier League clubs and some of those guys will graduate into being part of the Currie Cup now,” Smit said.
The former Springbok captain said he was at peace over the recruitment of players even though the Sharks have been severely criticised for signing veterans such as Matt Stevens and Mouritz Botha.
“The criticism is probably well-founded based on the performance, but I played with Matt, he was contracted while he was on a British and Irish Lions tour, which means he was rated amongst the top three tightheads in the UK. But that form didn’t transfer here and he was particularly poor at scrum time, although his work-rate was still far superior to any of the other number threes. But European champions Toulon are still willing to pay him double what we are paying him!
“Mouritz has come in for unnecessary criticism because there are not many hardened number four locks around and he hasn’t performed that badly. The public perception may be very different, but then television influences that a lot.
“I can’t control that, but the ‘jobs-for-mates’ thing people are so fond of writing about is nonsense. I don’t pick players on my own, it’s decided by a procurement committee, Smit said.