for quality writing

Ken Borland



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.

 

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit & Warren Whiteley Q&As 0

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit

 

Q: How did it feel for the Springboks to be booed off the field at halftime?

PSdT: Well the first half was quite a shocker and being booed, well we fully deserved it. But we were 100% better in the second half and we showed what we can do. It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you get booed like that, but it made me a bit angry, I wanted to show that we are not that bad. If you play good rugby, then the crowd gets behind you.

 

Q: What went wrong in the first half?

PSdT: Us players were all on the field, but we just weren’t playing, we had no energy, we all just seemed a bit tired. I do not know why that happened in the first half, I have no explanation at the moment, except that our game plan was to work around the corner and we didn’t do that as the forwards.

 

Q: How did the Springboks manage to pull off such an amazing comeback?

PSdT: Eben Etzebeth and I spoke about it and we never doubted that we could win, and if you believe it then you can do it. There was a mindshift – we knew we had to win, so we had to lift our game to a different level and the changes helped too, a guy like Ruan Combrinck was man of the match after playing just 40 minutes, so that’s quite an effort. We stuck to the game plan more, the forwards came into the game and we cut out the mistakes. We made a lot of errors in the first half, we didn’t keep the ball, and Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss spoke to us about that and said if this was our last Test for South Africa, how would we play? Of course they were upset.

 

 

Warren Whiteley

 

Q: How satisfying was that second-half comeback and how did you pull it off?

WW: We’re delighted with the win and the character we showed. We definitely felt the momentum swing early in the second half and that gave us a chance. We got quick ball and we were hitting the advantage line and so creating space out wide. We managed to keep that width, make holes in the middle and earn the right to go wide. It means a lot because we were extremely disappointed after the first half, but we showed our character in the second half, which is definitely going to be a massive confidence boost.

 

Q: Did you feel extra pressure coming on straight after halftime in front of your home crowd with the Springboks in a hole, and do you think you’ve secured a starting place now?

WW: Every time I step on to the field it’s a privilege and I try to make sure I use every opportunity. I didn’t feel any extra pressure, but I was highly motivated to make a difference. No, I don’t think I can talk about starting places because there are a lot of very talented loose forwards in the squad – Jaco Kriel hasn’t even played a game yet and there’s a guy like Sikhumbuzo Notshe also waiting in the wings.

 

Q: There’s been plenty of talk already about the win being down to all the members of the Lions team you captain who were on the field in the second half … is that why the Springboks won the game?

WW: There’s no way it was the Lions team who won the game, collectively we worked together on the game plan and the style of rugby we wanted to play. The first week together was tough, we did lots of work but lost, and this week was tough too. But slowly and surely we’re getting into our rhythm, we’re still reading and learning about each other. This was only my fifth Test, I’ve never had to link with Damian de Allende before, I’ve never scrummed behind Pieter-Steph du Toit before, so I’m still learning how to play with them.

 

Jannes Kirsten Q&A 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

Q: Jannes, today you were up against a Stormers pack that featured six Springboks, guys like Schalk Burger, who was probably a hero for you growing up. And yet you were a major factor on the gainline, smashing all of those guys back, how did that feel?

JK: In my first game of SuperRugby I had big eyes, playing against all those Springboks in the Stormers team, all those guys with so many caps. But when you’re under all that pressure, you just have to lift your performance. It definitely motivates me playing against guys like that, against our arch-rivals, so you lift your game as much as possible. I’m a born-and-bred Blue Bull, I’m sure if you cut me blue blood will come out, so the Stormers are not my favourite team, it’s why they are such a big team to play against. My brother Frik once got an offer from Western Province, but he said to my Dad – “How am I ever going to pull that jersey over my head?”!

 

Q: Putting your body on the line like you did, is it just because you were playing the Stormers, or was there other motivation?

JK: The coach has been hard on us this week and we knew we would have to perform to win. It’s like a sin to lose at Loftus Versfeld, so we really didn’t want to disappoint our fans or the coach either. I think I’ll be moving a bit slower on Sunday, get up later. I’ll ask the coach on Monday if maybe I can have a swimming session or a massage …

 

Q: Your brother Frik actually had to give up rugby last year due to a neck injury. Does that also motivate you to give absolutely everything while playing for the Bulls?

JK: Ja, Frik was a prop and then he hurt his neck in 2014, when he was just 26. The year before he had been a member of the Springbok touring squad at the end of the year. I think regularly about how nice it would have been to play together. So I really want to build on the name that he put out there, to make him and my Dad, who played flank for Eastern Transvaal, proud.

 

Q: How do you feel after the game, you must feel immensely proud?

JK: I’m very proud, it was a massive defensive effort. We needed to act as a collective and we did that, it was good to be a part of that effort. It was a great day and a great win, we’ll keep our feet on the ground but enjoy the win.

 

Juan Smith Q&A 0

Posted on August 28, 2014 by Ken

Juan, you’re back in the Springbok squad, that’s an amazing comeback. How does it feel for you?

JS: It’s been a long road back, I was out for 28 months, I had announced I was finished and I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I had five operations and they were tough times, it was all very dark times. I felt I had no other choice but to call it a day.

 

But after announcing your retirement you are back on the rugby field. How did that come about?

JS: I had one operation in Bloemfontein and then three in Pretoria. After that I tried everything to fix the achilles but there was no way around it and I was forced to retire. But then a surgeon in Bloemfontein, Dr Johan Kruger, said he could give me a chance of playing again. But for me it wasn’t about playing again, I just wanted to walk without pain. For 25 months I would stand up and go to bed with pain.

I could immediately feel the difference after that operation, the next morning there was no pain, and I said to my wife that I’m going to try and play again.

 

Thanks to winning the Top 14 and the Heineken Cup with Toulon,  it’s already been a very successful comeback too, hasn’t it?

JS: It’s been great playing for Toulon and winning those two cups was an awesome feeling. What better way to celebrate a comeback than that and to then be picked for the Springboks again.

 

How important have Toulon been in your comeback?

JS: The important thing is the guys around you and Toulon have some of the best players in the world. I had the privilege of playing alongside Jonny Wilkinson, which was an awesome feeling. It was just amazing to make my comeback and the cherry on top was winning the Heineken Cup and Top 14. I look back a year and I had just played my first 80 minutes; I’ve been able to set new goals at Toulon and I always wanted to play in three World Cups. I missed out on 2011 because of the achilles injury, but I hope next year will make up for that.

 

Has your game improved or changed while you’ve been at Toulon?

JS: You know, for me, the biggest challenge has always been that I play for myself. For me it’s about work ethic and my own high standards. I feel that I’ve been able to reach that level again at Toulon. I knew that if I can get to that level again, then I can play good rugby and Toulon have allowed me to reach it.

 

How important is it having several fellow South Africans at Toulon?

JS: I always said I would never leave Bloemfontein or go play overseas. But having South Africans at Toulon made it much easier. We have Wednesdays off so then we can braai [barbecue] and speak Afrikaans together.

 

What has it been like being back with the Springbok squad?

JS: People say the coach is bringing back all these old guns, but I was only 29 when I played my last Test and I’m not that old now either. Just to be part of this environment again is awesome, I was a bit nervous coming back, but I can see the work ethic is fantastic.

When you look back to 2007 and our World Cup win, we had guys like Os du Randt and John Smit playing and you need those senior players, just their presence brings calm to the side. When you’re going through tough times, then the young guys look up to the older players to make the decisions. You need that balance and it’s a healthy balance in the Springbok team.

 

There’s a chance you will be up against your Toulon team-mate Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. How will that be for you?

JS: You always want to prove a point when you play against your team-mates and if I get the chance I’ll try and put a big tackle in on him or do something else not so nice to him! But he’s a lovely guy and an unbelievable player and I look forward to getting together with him after the game.

 

 



↑ Top