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Sharks family on a healing mission

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 27 Oct 2014 at 11:09
Tagged with : , , , , ,

On a Monday when Sharks news is, of course, thin on the ground, I’d like to pick up on a few things that were said at Friday’s press conference and explore them a little further.

The tone, I felt, was positive and upbeat, but there was certainly an undertone of a tough year gone by, with many of the decisions made and the happenings during that period seeming to go against the overall vision that CEO John Smit has for the union and the brand. Board chair Stephen Saad spoke about corporate governance – an oblique reference to the financial mismanagement saga that we’ve chosen not to cover in great detail on these pages – but also said a few other things that to me were very interesting indeed and revealed much about his thinking.

To paraphrase a little, Saad confirmed a feeling that I have long held by saying that the real “owners” of the Sharks are the likes of you and me: the passionate fans in whom the real legacy of Natal rugby finds its custodians. While there may be others, at an administrative level, who come and go over the years and may, rightly or wrongly, assume some level of ownership of the assets of the Sharks company, it would be wrong for any of those people to neglect the interests and needs of the fans – the public – to whom this team’s fate is so indelibly linked. Fans vote with their feet, after all and it’s from this perspective, perhaps, that the shenanigans of the White mini-era were most damaging. The need to re-engage with the public, reform the way the team plays and above all, get some bums onto those Kings Park seats, is huge and one that all at the Sharks must surely have as a top priority going forward.

Saad also said that the players themselves were instrumental in “telling us which coaches they like and don’t like” and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that while they love Brendan Venter, they didn’t like Jake White. Happy players, in this seller’s market, are a priceless commodity and based on the reaction of those few players whose opinions I’ve sought since Friday, the groundwork is being set for a very happy period going forward. The cynics among you will say they don’t give a fig for the players’ personal satisfaction levels so long as they deliver trophies for the fans, but my view is that looking holistically, a harmonious squad comprising players and coaches who actually get on and want to work together is always going to be a more successful one in the long term.

The challenge we face, as fans, is embracing yet another “new start” – I’ve lost count of quite how many of these we’ve had over the last 18 months – and trying not to let the negativity and disappointment of 2014 weigh us down too much. While some are overjoyed at this new beginning, others are rightly a little skeptical and are voicing the concern that “we’ve heard this before and talk is cheap after all”. While I’m pretty firmly in the former camp at this stage, I’m only human too and can’t guarantee that I won’t slip into the latter should evidence of this major improvement fail to be shown in the near term. Right now, though, we are all going to have to be patient through the long months of the off-season, hoping and trusting that the new coaching team are able to put the right plans in place to “get it right” for us in 2015 and beyond.


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