Smit justified in axing Plumtree early
The board of the Sharks not only 'fully endorsed' John Smit's appointment as CEO, but they also backed his decision to reveal the dismissal coach John Plumtree in mid-season.
In a statement issued on Friday Stephen Saad, the Chairman of The Sharks (PTY) Ltd, explained why they felt Smit was "justified" in making the announcement of Plumtree's departure earlier this week.
Plumtree will continue in his role as coach till the completion of the Super Rugby season, but his contract will not be renewed.
Brendan Venter will take up a dual role as Director of Rugby at the Sharks and Technical Director at Saracens – with a new coach to be appointed before the start of Currie Cup season.
Saad said Smit could have "played for time" and delayed the announcement of Plumtree's eminent departure.
However, he opted to play open cards.
"John Plumtree, who has served the Sharks with both loyalty and much success and, not withstanding that he has a contract until the end of 2013, he needed certainty on his future beyond that," Saad said in the statement.
"He informed the Sharks that he had been approached with other options to consider and personal issues – viz schooling – that needed addressing," the Sharks boss added.
"The easiest decision and the line of least resistance for John Smit to take would have been to say: 'He needed time', he could have delayed his call for months until he was entrenched as CEO.
"However, consistent with both his own integrity and the board's guidance on honesty and transparency, he grasped the nettle and did not opt for the expedient approach.
"This approach was also in part accelerated by comments attributed to Nick Mallet and then taken to end further destructive speculation."
Saad said Smit has a vision on how he wants to run the Sharks and the board felt they could not ask him, as CEO, to take accountability and then choose his team for him.
"These are really tough decisions and are never clean cut," the statement said.
"John Smit has had the benefit of playing under both coaches and rates them both highly.
"The intensity of the debate is a positive reflection of the performance of John Plumtree.
"John Smit is our chosen leader and a man of substance. He has made his choice and I can only ask Shark supporters to get behind him and the team as our season unfolds."
Saad, speaking of the record-breaking Bok legend, said the Board could assist in the commercial running of the business, but needed a CEO who truly understands the engine room of rugby.
"The reality, we are all acutely aware of, is regardless of commercial success, the public barometer of success by which the Sharks are measured, is winning," Saad said.
"We felt that John would not only stand the best chance of achieving these objectives, but also felt that his presence and leadership will provide a conducive environment to inspire and guide all stakeholders.
"John enjoys the unanimous support of the entire board.
"We recognise too that John may not have all the commercial experience yet. We have a board and a management team to guide him in these areas. Our advice to John was, listen carefully before acting and at all times be honest and transparent.
"Recent actions may seem to contradict the advice given. However, the actions taken were not malicious."