Rugby World Cup winner and now CEO of the Sharks, John Smit has addressed a letter to all fans regarding the performance of the team in Suoer Rugby this year:
I could ramble off a list of excuses that would read like a horror story for any management team, but that is not what this letter is about. We understand how important this team is to so many, as it is to us, and frankly I think my staff are in desperate need of counselling after the last four results as they hurt like I’ve never seen, some of them having worked here for over 20 years.
We also understand that in the current environment we all find ourselves, with inflated fuel costs, a currency under siege and load-shedding to mention just a few items, our Sharks team become the custodians of hope come the weekend. They represent our inner warrior and deep instinct to see good conquer evil! And when they do, the beer tastes better and Monday mornings become a proud moment to walk in with shoulders back and revel in the success of our team.
Sadly, we have not had enough of this and we are working tirelessly as administrators, management and players to rectify the current form of our team. Never in a million years is it what we regard as satisfactory and I say it openly knowing full well our boys feel exactly the same way. We will stop at nothing to become the best again and can assure you that tons of work and hours have gone into planning the future of this great brand/team.
I’ve now been here almost two years, having started in July 2013 and there has been significant change implemented during that time, most of it planned but the odd curve ball that forced us to find an alternative route while never deterring from the course chosen. Have there been mistakes made? Absolutely, but with every lesson, the firm resolution that the lessons learned or being learned will make us stronger going forward.
Everyone wants to know how we have gone from a conference-topping team to a team leaking tries and in desperate need of a win; how do seasoned internationals drop balls and why does it seem very difficult to work out what the team strategy is?
It’s impossible to dissect each one of the questions out there but having been a player that sadly played a part in some pretty spectacularly bad seasons in 2000 and 2006, I can tell you that the best-made plans with the best players can often amount to nothing when a team loses its confidence.
Our job is to lead the players in a way that allows them to regain this confidence even though the opposition we play and still have to play don’t allow for too much room to do so. We have what we believe to be a strong succession plan of players coming through and players chosen to join us in the near future, plus, for the first time in a while, we finally have the ability to make these changes and acquisitions with our dismal financial past being rectified and the proper business structures and governance being implemented over the last two years.
I completely understand the barrage against myself and other senior people within the organisation and it is our responsibility to deal with all of this while keeping a steady hand on the wheel to ensure long-term success and I can honestly tell you that any decision I have taken or will take is to benefit this organisation. Not all of them have been spot-on but we have made huge progress in this business in two years with a very dedicated team behind the team. Critically, I have learned and continue to learn from both our successes and failures.
Having addressed the commercial issues, full focus has been given to the coaching and player structures. We want the Sharks to be competitive at U19 and U21 levels. To this end, we needed to retain our home-grown talent. You would have noticed the improved relationship between the Sharks and our schools that has resulted in them playing curtain-raisers at the stadium. In time we will be rolling out our strategic plans around our procurement initiatives and our vision on creating a young pipeline of talent that will secure our future for years to come.
Adversity is often the catalyst for creative thinking and I believe we have learned a considerable amount over this period, which will stand us in good stead in the years to come.
It has been a rollercoaster ride so far both on the field where we find ourselves currently placed in Super Rugby, to us having won a Currie Cup in 2013, topped an SA conference for the first time in 2014, picked the first ever player of colour to captain a Currie Cup side and contributed more than 10 players a season on average to the Bok cause.
Off the field has also been an amazing journey, from acquiring new sponsors and increasing our sponsorship revenue by 67% from 2013 to 2015. We have also aligned for the first time in decades with our own city and of course the much needed R22-million rand swing in 2014 to rectify our financial issues of 2013.
All of this is of no immediate consequence if we don’t have a team performing on the field, but we will reap rewards later now that we have the financial strength to add to our squad, players who are hungry to don the Sharks jersey.
This campaign is not working out as we had hoped and the many reasons will be debated at length; our jobs will be to make sure we rectify the problems and at no stage will we be the leadership that hangs individuals out to dry. We will take the heat, listen to your constructive concerns and implement whatever change needed to put us back on track so that we can all enjoy the only thing that matters to us, a team willing to fight for us with an ethic that makes us proud to be Sharks.
We recognise that your patience has been tested but appreciate your concern and promise you we will do whatever is needed to make you proud again. The team deserve it, the Sharks culture demands it, but mostly we want it for you, our proud supporters.