John Smit likens Springbok-laden Sharks to a ‘Ferrari’ with ‘no gearbox’ after horror season

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Sharks players and John Smit.

Split with Sharks players and John Smit.

Former Springboks and Sharks captain John Smit gave a brutal assessment of the Durban side’s season thus far in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

The campaign has been one to forget for the Sharks, who have only managed two wins from 12 in the league despite their powerful squad, leaving them in 14th spot and out of the play-off picture.

Tough to watch

It has been confusing for fans and pundits alike to unpack why such a strong squad has failed to fire. Smit, a former CEO of the club, likened the side to a faulty Ferrari. The ex-hooker, however, does believe that his old coach John Plumtree is the right man to lead the team out of a poor patch of form.

“As much as it pains me to say, the Sharks are on the bottom end of it,” Smit said. “They have a magnificent-looking team. It’s like walking through a parking lot and seeing a Ferrari, but as you peer through the window, it has no gearbox. That’s the reality.

“Why? It used to be my problem for three years when I was CEO there. It’s such a complicated and loaded question.

“We have a coach in Plum who has come back. He knows the culture of old. He really understood what the Sharks were about, pre-equity deal. He’s had really little ability to pick players or management, so it’s difficult to blame him. He has inherited everything that he’s got.

“Bottom of the log with that squad does beg for answers that all of us desperately want and I wish I had them. That’s a big part of my life and the Sharks badge is ingrained into my soul.

“To watch them struggle is difficult. The win over the weekend [against Ulster] was magic. It’s probably the only game I haven’t been able to watch and it’s the one they have played the best in.”

He added: “You could ask me, Plum, [CEO] Ed Coetzee, anyone, I’m not sure they would have an understanding of how you can be so far behind with such an unbelievable group of players.

“The only way to address it is to accept that this URC campaign has been an absolute disaster. We have some great players coming in next season. Plum will have a full year of understanding what he’s got, who he’s going to let go, who he’s adding and will hope there’s some kind of realignment next year.”

Springbok-laden Sharks wary that ex-head coach will be out ‘to prove a point’

Praise for the rest

The great leader touched on the success of the other South African franchises, with the Bulls and Stormers continuing to lead the way whilst the Lions have shown tremendous growth and could qualify for the URC knockouts and subsequently the Champions Cup.

“We’ve had two franchises that have promised a lot, that have contracted in a great fashion and have also delivered in the Stormers and the Bulls. They continue to be competitive and have been so over the last two or three years,” Smit continued.

“If you look at the Lions, their investment and how they’ve gone about it. They have an ability to beat big teams with more than double their player bill.

“They are a great unit and a difficult team to beat, as we saw last weekend. Any one of us would rather be in that space, you are playing a bit of chess from a contractual point of view and spend your money wisely without overspending. Yet you are still able to create a competitive team.”

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