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Pot luck, or pot of Gold for Smit?

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 23 Oct 2014 at 10:17
Tagged with : , , , ,

While Sharks CEO John Smit has yet to make any announcement, the smart money is very much on Gary Gold having sewn up the top job in Durban and various media are reporting that the former Bath man will be confirmed as Director of Rugby under Smit within days.

I like to think I’m plugged into the zeitgeist when it comes to the way Sharks fans are feeling and it’s probably safe to say that the news about Gold’s potential appointment is certainly not being met with the same rapturous applause and fawning adulation that marked Jake White’s hiring roughly a year ago. Reasons behind this one seem to be clear. Jake White has the “wow factor”, based in no small part on the fact that he’s won a World Cup. Gold is seen as a bit of a nowhere man, in contrast, who tends to float around under the radar. He’s held a number of top jobs over the years but has never seemed to step far enough into the limelight to be indelibly associated with a particular team, campaign, or noteworthy success.

Fans seem to expect, whether rightly or not, that World Cup (or at least Super Rugby) winning coaches should be lining up around the block to take on the Sharks job. While some are seemingly prepared to be patient and accept, perhaps, a less than stellar Super Rugby campaign in 2015 while Smit finds the right man, the vast majority of the black and white faithful seem rather desperate to see a new appointment. Who, exactly, they want this man to be is not clear, but the undertone is definitely that they want someone more flashy than plain old Gary Gold.

But is flashy what we want, or need right now? Jake White must surely have taught us something – that a coach with a big reputation is likely to come with an ego of equivalent size. White may believe that he has written the book on rugby, but his behaviour while in the hot seat in Durban suggested that there simply weren’t any spare pages in that book; the thought that he might need to work with others to increase his own knowledge was simply anathema. It’s an old cliche, but with Jake, I feel, we got a lot of knowledge but very little wisdom. His autocratic and closed-minded approach quickly alienated pretty much his entire support staff and in an environment quite as complex and cosmopolitan as the Sharks, his failure to adapt and work with people, rather than against them, proved his undoing.

This was never really meant to be a piece about all the things White did wrong, though. There’s plenty of dirt there which I may or may not choose to use at a later time, but I’d like to focus on the different dynamic that Gold can bring to the party, which will hopefully lead to a long and fruitful tenure.

All talk of rugby acumen aside (I’ll cover that in a follow-up piece) it’s the difference in personalty between Gold and White that I feel will be most telling. Gold is a people person, just like Dick Muir was before him. He gets on with people, works with them, listens to what they have to say and takes their ideas on board. Where White was closed to anything that didn’t come directly from his own brain, Gold is never too proud to seek out the ideas of others who may know more than him about a particular area. In this era of increasing worklaods, but shrinking budgets, no coach can afford to be an island, but neither can he afford to hire full-time specialists in every conceivable position; it thus becomes very important to be able to assimilate information from as many sources as you can. The first step along that road is being the sort of person that other people want to help, another area where Gold does a better job than Jake White.

When John Smit took the job last year, he spoke about the Sharks becoming “nice” again, about breaking down the walls of animosity that appeared to fence the so-called “last outpost” off from the rest of the South African rugby establishment. Why he decided to then hire a Director of Rugby who has already alienated virtually every part of that establishment through his behaviour over ten years is anyone’s guess, but to my mind, a fair amount of that damage could be undone in years to come with somebody like Gold at the helm.

No, take this from me. Gary Gold may not necessarily glitter, but he’s just what this broken and divided Sharks family needs right now. I hope that he does indeed have the job, as reported.


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