Smit opens up on Plumtree axing

Former Sharks CEO John Smit has admitted that the handling of John Plumtree’s exit as head coach in 2013 was ‘a colossal stuff up’.

In an outgoing interview with The Mercury, Smit conceded that he would have done things differently if he could go back to redress how Plumtree unwittingly learned of his removal as Sharks coach in 2013.

The long-serving Sharks mentor ultimately found out about his fate in the media, with Smit envisaging a plan to freshen up the coaching group.  

‘Plum had asked for a one-year extension before I took charge and that might have helped had that been granted,’ Smit told The Mercury.

‘I got it wrong in that Plum found out in the media. That was not the plan and when [former Bok coach] Nick Mallett had said in the press that he was not interested in coaching the Sharks and was focused on his position as an analyst with SuperSport, Plum was incensed.

‘I recall trying to talk to him after a Sharks training session towards the end of the 2013 Super Rugby season and he was so furious that he would not make eye contact with me as he stormed off. I understand why he was so angry. I would have liked to have spoken to him about a coaching succession plan, but we never got to have that conversation. It was a colossal stuff up.’

After Smit’s original plan to bring Brendan Venter on board as a long-term coach failed to materialise, former Bok coach Jake White joined the Sharks for the 2014 season.

Although the Sharks finished top of the South African conference and went on to feature in the Super Rugby semi-finals that year, Smit revealed that White had ultimately alienated those around him.

‘Jake was doing a good rugby job, but he was beating people up along the way. He was alienating just about everyone. I told him he could not continue. The John Mitchell effect was fast approaching, in terms of a player revolt.

‘The senior players were fed up with Jake treating them like schoolboys. The situation was becoming untenable, and I think he was more relieved than me when we parted ways [after the 2014 season].

‘Jake’s treatment of some of the players was regrettable. Keegan Daniel went from holding the Currie Cup at the end of 2013 to being treated like a leper.’

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Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis