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Why the Sharks need Smit


  • 19 Apr 2013

In his first fortnightly column for SARugbymag.co.za, former Springbok hooker JOHN ALLAN says John Smit's appointment as CEO will revilatise the Sharks brand.

As a former member of the twilight zone (tight five) it was great news to read that a fellow hooker would be taking over as Sharks CEO.

John Smit is definitely the right man for the job. People may wonder why he would accept this job when the world is his oyster, and the answer is because he is a passionate rugby man who loves the game that gave him so much joy. Now he can return the favour.

So why do the Sharks need him now?

Their current CEO, Brian van Zyl, has hit retirement age. He has been at the helm for 20 years and has become stale. The Sharks have lost their jersey sponsor for the team and the stadium (Mr Price), which is a huge amount of money to lose, especially in the current economy. The number of Sharks' season-ticket holders is also at an all-time low even though the team is performing well on the field.

The Sharks need new blood in the form of a World Cup-winning captain and the most successful Springbok captain ever, but more importantly, Smit is a top person with character traits that endear him to both young and old, and people from all communities.

When Smit walks into a boardroom to sell the Sharks brand, he will do so with confidence and will make such a powerful argument that the corporates will want to tie their brand in with the Sharks and will know that they are in good hands.

The supporters, who are the rock on which the Sharks brand is built, will know they have a person who is not only a great leader but who will listen to their concerns and wishes. I foresee a marked increase in season ticket and private suite holders.

The players won't be able to pull the wool over Smit's eyes as he spent 15 years playing for the Sharks and will know exactly what is going on in their heads (well, most of them, the backs can be very weird sometimes). Smit also has the respect of the whole rugby world and will be able to attract the world's best players to the Sharks.

Great rugby unions are not only judged on the performance of their professional team but also whether their club and schoolboy rugby is healthy, and whether they have a sustainable transformation and development programme. A union must ensure that it is nurturing grassroots rugby – the base for future players and supporters – create passion early and nourish it. Smit understands all of these components and will work with his management team both in the professional Sharks (Pty) Ltd and amateur KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union to bring these components to fruition.

One might argue that he has no business experience, but I can assure you that when you captain a Springbok team you become very savvy in the art of discussion, delegation, and organisational and people skills. More importantly, due to his friendly and amicable nature he has built up an army of good business friends who will be more than willing to guide and support him.

I foresee a purple patch for the Sharks brand with Smit at the helm.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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