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Ken Borland



Smit hopes for Sanzar action following abysmal officiating 0

Posted on November 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks CEO John Smit said at the weekend that while he could not publically share his views on the abysmal officiating in the match against the Waratahs in Sydney, he hoped Sanzar would take action following some of the most one-sided decision-making ever seen in SuperRugby.

“I’m sure Sanzar leadership is strong enough 2 do something before we need 2 enquire ,I hope!”, Smit said on social media after being asked if the Sharks would make an official complaint after referee Paul Hoffman, TMO George Ayoub and the assistant referees blew the visitors off the park in a 33-18 defeat.

While coach Gary Gold described the outcome as “a cruel result”, he was restraint personified after a match in which even New South Wales legend Phil Kearns said the Sharks had been “stiffed”. The post-game press conference was dominated by Australian journalists asking how the visitors felt about the refereeing.

“It seemed that some calls didn’t go our way, but that’s the way it goes, I’m afraid. A desperate Waratahs side played well and asked questions of us, but I felt that we answered them. S’Bura Sithole was a bit unlucky not to get his try,” Gold said.

Although Hoffman blew the Sharks out of the water with all the efficiency of an Uzi machine gun, Gold said he was not bothered by the referee being an Australian.

“I don’t mind where the referee comes from, every coach just wants a competent referee. I like to believe there is too much at stake for them not to be impartial, for them it’s about going to the World Cup, so it shouldn’t matter where they come from,” Gold said.

The director of rugby said he had sympathy for Sanzar referee head Lyndon Bray, who was bearing a heavy burden in trying to improve the standard of officiating.

“I know Lyndon is working unbelievably hard to improve the refereeing and it’s a huge responsibility. I have a lot of faith in him, but it’s a difficult vision and the game needs us to give him all the support we can.”

The controversial defeat merely exacerbated a horror year for the Sharks, their ninth defeat in 13 games leaving them 11th on the log.

Gold said they had to ensure they did not unravel like a cheap hem in their remaining three games.

“We need to show our supporters how much it means to us. We’re in a bad place on the log, but we need to take the punches and man up and we will be better for it. Some second or third-choice players are getting an unbelievable opportunity to play in SuperRugby – guys like Stefan Ungerer, Lionel Cronje, Etienne Oosthuizen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole and Stephan Lewies – and they’ll be better for it,” Gold said.

John Smit Q&A 0

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Ken

 

While the Sharks team has scrapped their way into the SuperRugby playoffs, an off-field battle has been polluting the waters around KwaZulu-Natal rugby. John Smit, who has announced he will be stepping down as chief executive, with Gary Teichmann, another former Springbok captain, announced this week as his successor, answers Ken Borland’s questions about the controversies and successes of his term.

What has caused the delay in the financial statements?

 

JS: Essentially we were renegotiating our debt/equity situation and the favourable outcome was announced this week with the recapitalisation of shares. It has some complexities, but in essence SuperSport have acquired 9% from KZNRU and then both entities have been issued more shares, together with another financial instrument, the net effect of which is that the Sharks have R40m recapitalised. Furthermore, we were trying to make sure that any future arrangement benefited our schools, clubs and development programmes. To this end Supersport really stepped up to the plate and we are most fortunate to be able to count on them as a shareholder. They will support our amateur organisation to grow our school base, clubs and support our development programme. We’re in a great space.

The economic downturn has affected all the franchises, but just how badly off are the Sharks?

JS: I don’t think it is news that our franchises are under pressure with attempting to retain players while competing with foreign currency, but we as a franchise had to do something to stem the tide and create a business plan that takes us back to operating successfully on both fronts, on the field and off. With this amazing move from SuperSport to inject R40m into the Sharks we can now realistically look at having a profit-bearing budget for the first time in over a decade by 2019. We have had to think smartly as to how we contract players and as frustrated as people have been this year with on-field performance, our new, much younger squad with far less internationals has in its first year together qualified for the playoffs, which for me is a great sign considering the draw of death we were in. This group is signed with us for the next few years and I can’t wait to see how they blossom. Our financial performance in 2016 is right on track and will reflect some of the major changes already implemented. Losses should not exceed R5m and hopefully we do a little better.

How has your relationship been with KZNRU president Graham McKenzie and chairman of the board Stephen Saad?

 

JS: These two men as well as others on the board have been very supportive of me in my tenure, Stephen has given me so much of his time, for which I am truly grateful as he runs a massive business, values time with his family immensely and he has always found time to assist with every issue I brought him over the last three years.

Are you satisfied with the number of sponsors on board and the key relationships you have developed for the union during your time as CEO?

 

JS: This is probably the area of the business I enjoyed most and looking back on the revenue we managed to increase on the sponsorship front over the last three years is pleasing. The fact that Cell C have bought into the vision and plan for this team’s future by renewing for a further three years is probably our biggest victory in this rebuilding phase. The other very important relationship that needed mending was with our very own city. Being one of Durban’s greatest assets I found it sad how far removed we were from each other and can proudly say that we now truly are partners. Durban Tourism has been instrumental in us being able to host the All Blacks this year and from there the discussions around a possible stadium move emerged, now knowing full well that any such move would need to benefit both parties should it happen.

You have been criticised for getting rid of Sharks stalwarts like John Plumtree and Rudolf Straeuli, what were the reasons for your decisions?

 

JS: I think in my three years one thing I could count on was that every time the team lost I was guaranteed to hear or read about Plum not being renewed! So much has been written and said about this issue but I have to say I was devastated at how it was handled. I had a very different idea in my mind of how this process was going to unfold while still in the UK, until one journalist and ex-coach decided to play their part. Never was it my intention to have Plum treated like that and he is justifiably angry. The discussion I wanted to have with Plum was to be one-on-one to ascertain where he saw himself currently and why he believed we hadn’t excelled at SuperRugby yet with the quality of squad we had. One needs to remember that coming in as a new CEO making that change was not an easy one or one taken without the consultation of many players, board members and rugby people close to the brand, with the most important part of this process being taken away by not being able to discuss with Plum himself. The irony is Plum had for months prior to my appointment been asking my predecessor to extend his contract with no luck. It is sad for me how it turned out, Plum was a friend of mine and as a coach I enjoyed playing under him while at the Sharks.

Rudolf asked to leave when offered the Lions CEO post. My relationship with him is still strong and I have always enjoyed Rudolf, his success at the Lions is no surprise to me. He was a great asset to us.

 

Do you have any advice for your successor?

 

JS: Wow, how long do we have! On a serious note though, I’m delighted that Gary Teichmann is our next CEO. We have sat down and discussed the areas integral to the business and where the possible hurdles lie. My advice to him was to try and block out the noise and focus on the job, he too will have similar challenges as I did being a high-profile person coming in and it’s important he knows that the same people who pump up his tyres now will slash them at will when they don’t get what they feel they need. So the best advice I can give is the same advice I was given many years ago: Decide your direction of journey, stay on course and don’t be distracted by either the good or bad noise along the way.

 

 

Smit wants to hear the applause at King’s Park this year 0

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Ken

 

Sharks CEO John Smit is hoping to regularly hear the applause of 30 000 people at Kings Park this year as his team mount a strong SuperRugby challenge, but he’s hoping too that other South African franchises are also pushing hard for the title because that will be the greatest benefit to the Springboks’ World Cup campaign.

Smit told The Citizen that there are enormous benefits to be gained from SuperRugby for the Springboks, remembering how crucial the tournament was in 2007 when he led South Africa to the World Cup crown in Paris. Earlier that year, the Bulls and Sharks had competed in the SuperRugby final, with the Bulls snatching a dramatic Bryan Habana-inspired one-point victory.

“The big thing in 2007 was that the Bulls and Sharks had such successful campaigns and so we were very well prepared for the World Cup. If you’ve got a SuperRugby title-chase to focus on, then the World Cup doesn’t become a distraction and SuperRugby was the best platform and preparation for our win in France.

“I hope it’s the same case this year and we have two or three teams right up there because you’re playing against the guys you have to beat at the World Cup. The players should go out intending to win SuperRugby this year and your best-performing players should be the Springboks. That’s what happened in 2007, we had the guys to win the World Cup and they were confident and well-prepared from SuperRugby,” Smit said.

The former Springbok captain is also hoping that Sharks rugby emerges from an unhappy 2013 in which crowd numbers dropped dramatically at King’s Park in response to an unpopular non-possession based game plan employed by Jake White.

“We’re still 14% behind on our season ticket sales but I’d like to see more than 30 000 people at King’s Park on Saturday for our opening game against the Cheetahs. Time will tell, it’s a big challenge, but we’ve been working hard on our marketing, getting the fans closer to the players, having open days and more interaction, whereas they were removed before.

“We had a good squad last year and we could have won the competition, but the environment possibly wasn’t good enough. This year we have an even better squad and a better environment,” Smit said.

The “better environment” is mostly due to Smit letting go of White in what must have been a tough decision for South Africa’s longest-serving Test captain to make; fortunately he has found a top-class replacement in Gary Gold, a former Springbok assistant coach.

“It’s been a pretty seamless transition and Gary has put in place such instrumental plans. He, Brendan Venter and defence coach Michael Horak were all at London Irish together and Gary has fitted in as if he’s been here the whole time.

“So there’s nothing too new happening with the team, Gary understood the vision and his arrival has certainly been a positive,” Smit said.

In terms of the Sharks’ SuperRugby rivals, Smit expects a fierce derby against the Cheetahs this weekend, even though their small pool of players means they will find it hard to maintain a challenge throughout the competition, while the Stormers have a history of success behind them.

But Smit is most concerned by the Bulls, who he says have been able to gather a powerful squad together in Pretoria.

“The Bulls are going to pose a far bigger challenge this year. In the last two or three years, they’ve come a long way, quietly going about their business, and they’ve made some key signings, especially those three Free Staters who will have a massive impact in the pack.

“Pierre Spies is back off the bench and, in the meantime, Victor Matfield will captain the side. Not too many squads have that sort of depth of leadership,” Smit said.

 

Former players’ SuperRugby predictions 0

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Ken

 

How will SuperRugby work out? I spoke to some former players who gave their views on what shape the various franchises are in and what they need to work on …

 

Butch James (2007 World Cup winner, former Sharks & Lions flyhalf)

I always hope the Sharks do well and hopefully they can go one step further this year. It will be interesting to see Pieter-Steph du Toit back and I think he’ll have a big season.

I think when Pat Lambie spoke about not worrying about scoring tries, he was playing it down because everyone seems to be on that course. So he’s trying to take the pressure off the team, but if they can put some tries on the scoreboard then they have a good chance of winning the competition. They’re not going to play a kicking game. Every team will try and score tries, the Bulls also want to do that.

The Sharks have brilliant forwards, a great pack, but I see some difficulties in the backs. I hope numbers nine-to-15 stay injury free this year because that’s what let us down last season.

 

Marius Hurter (1995 World Cup winner, former Bulls & Lions prop)

In our conference I’m backing the Sharks and Bulls to do well. The Bulls are due some luck, they’ve been through some hard times but I think Frans Ludeke is getting the squad fired up this year.

The Sharks are always a good outfit and they’re consistent as well.

The Bulls’ scrum is a worry, us Bulls always pride ourselves on that and I hope they sort it out. It’s just little things, but the scrum gives you a tactical advantage and it has a psychological effect as well. If you’re doing badly in the scrums then all your plays, all your attack, defence, is on the back foot. That piles up and it has a snowball effect. Lineouts, scrums, rucks is what Bulls rugby is about, and they just need to adapt to the laws and the referees.

But the Bulls have got the squad, it’s just a few technical things to sort out and gelling as a team.

 

John Slade (played over a hundred games for the Sharks at lock during the halcyon 1990s)

John Smit has brought something different to the Sharks and made some really good changes, so I’m very positive about their chances. Even last year they were very good, but then stumbled at the last hurdle in a very tough competition.

Gary Gold is a very good coach, Brendan Venter is a master craftsman, so the structure’s in place, they have the players and they’ve brought some extra players in like Mouritz Botha, Jean Deysel and Michael Claassens because what you need is depth.

It’s also a very happy squad and that flows on to the field and winning comes naturally. It’s very important that there’s no discontent, because that leads to trouble.

 

Joel Stransky (1995 World Cup winner, former Northern Transvaal, Sharks & Western Province flyhalf)

The Bulls have got some injured players back and they’ve said up front that they want to play with more freedom, but can they sustain that in pressure situations? The way they play has been a bit disappointing in the past and hopefully they use the ball a bit more this season.

The Sharks have a blend of youth and experience and they’re going to be a real force, while the Stormers tend to be hot and cold, they need to be more consistent. The Cheetahs are by far our weakest franchise, while the Lions are an unknown quantity. They have no real stars, but a wonderful game plan, they give it a full go, they’re committed and gutsy. But how long can they sustain that? In the end injuries will decide whether they have a mixed bag of results or not.

 

 

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