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Plenty of big names linked with Sharks job

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 8 Oct 2014 at 10:22
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , ,

They say nature abhors a vacuum and with the media probably a part of the natural world (although sometimes it’s a bit of a stretch), it’s unsurprising that the particular vacuum that is the now-vacant Sharks Director of Rugby position is drawing in plenty of names.

Having parted ways somewhat acrimoniously with Jake White last week – and now facing yet another change in “head honcho” and presumably playing style as well – you can understand if John Smit and his Exco are a little wary about making a hasty appointment. With Brad Macleod-Henderson and his assistants doing a fair enough job in the Currie Cup and team morale finally on the up, the last thing Smit will want to do is make a false move and risk plunging things back into turmoil. I’d expect him to be casting a pretty wide net, in other words, without being particularly committal at this stage.

Inevitably, the media will pick up on any whiff of a discussion with virtually anyone and we need to be careful not to turn a “sounding out approach” into a formal job offer, which is pretty much exactly what happened when Smit spoke to Nick Mallett last year.

That episode has seemingly left a sour taste, with Mallett one of the few high profile and available coaches not to be linked to the job. The other whose name has not yet surfaced in reports is Peter de Villiers, a man who I feel might actually make a very good fist of running things at the Sharks, given his collaborative, forward thinking approach and open ways of dealing with players (rather the antithesis of the White way).

De Villiers, as I said, does not appear to be in the mix, although both of his deputies at Springbok level, Gary Gold and Dick Muir, are among those whose names do crop up, along with former All Black and Lions coach John Mitchell. Based purely on the amount of mentions received, Gold does appear to be the front-runner at this stage; unlike Muir, he’s actively coaching at the moment and does appear to be building his skill set, whereas Muir has faded into the background a little after a disastrous spell with the Lions. Mitchell is another who had a bad experience in Joburg and while he would appear to be the ideal candidate, as an available, experienced man who just happens to live in Durban, one just can’t quite shake off the concern relating to accusations of “losing the dressing room” in the last few places he’s coached.

The major objective, as I see it, is to find a man who is going to actually add value to the Sharks from a rugby perspective, while understanding and embracing the “family culture” that Smit spoke of regularly last year (and less so while White was running the show). Slavishly appointing a new “Director of Rugby” simply because everyone else has a man with such a title isn’t really going to achieve very much and for Smit and his team, the important thing is to carefully weigh up each candidate in terms of what he can bring as an individual, rather than simply trying to replicate White’s exact job description. It may be that we don’t need a Director at all, per se – someone like Muir certainly wouldn’t fit particularly well into that box, but could nonetheless be a hugely valuable addition to the coaching team, if he were allowed to focus on the things that he does well. The same would apply to any of the candidates under consideration.

The one man who would be a universally popular appointment, Brendan Venter, doesn’t seem to be in the running for a full-time role but talk persists that he may be used as a consultant in some way. The extent to which that arrangement could work will, of course, depend on Venter’s relationship with whomever Smit does bring in.


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