‘Thankfully we are not an old Toyota Corolla’ – Sharks owner fires back at John Smit following Springbok legend’s criticism

Colin Newboult
John Smit, Springboks legend, at the World Rugby awards in 2023.

John Smit, Springboks legend, at the World Rugby awards in 2023.

Marco Masotti, the owner of the struggling Sharks side, has taken to X, formerly Twitter, to respond to John Smit’s scathing criticism.

Smit, who used to be the chief executive of the Durban outfit, described the team as being like a Ferrari without a gearbox.

That is in reference to the club being loaded with Springboks talent but ultimately failing to show it out on the field.

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.”

Slight improvement

Prior to last weekend, the Sharks had won just one United Rugby Championship match all season, but they broke that barren streak with a victory over Ulster.

John Plumtree’s men then followed it up with a second successive triumph when they overcame Edinburgh on Saturday but, ahead of that clash, Masotti provided his retort to the ex-Boks captain.

“I am grateful for the comparison to a Ferrari. A Ferrari is always a Ferrari. A gearbox will eventually be fixed,” he wrote, before appearing to compare Smit to an “old Toyota Corolla from the past.”

Smit, who spent 13 years as a player with the Sharks before departing in 2011, returned to Durban as the CEO in 2013 and spent three years in that role.

“Why are they where they are? It used to be my problem for three years when I was CEO there. It’s such a complicated and loaded question,” the Springboks great said earlier in the week.

“We have a coach in Plum who has come back. He knows the culture of old. He understood what the Sharks were about, pre-equity deal. He’s had 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. 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.

“The win over the weekend (against Ulster) was magic. So hopefully the corner has been turned.”

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


Masotti’s comments received a mixed response but the Sharks owner then qualified what he wrote by stating that he was joking and sees Smit as a “hero”.

“Just because I enjoy the occasional rugby banter does not mean I intended to criticize @JohnSmit123. He is an absolute hero of mine and I am grateful for all of his advice,” he wrote.

“Not all decisions have worked but he understands it is a journey and shares our goal of turning @SharksRugby into the best. We now have shareholders prepared to work on our Ferrari for the long term. Go Sharks!”

Following the past two results, it at least suggests that the Sharks are in the process of fixing that ‘broken Ferrari’.

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