It is an opportunity that I have longed for
Dale College has appointed Luke Smith to head up rugby coaching at the great school, an Old Dalian who brings international playing experiences to coaching at Dale.
Smith takes over the coaching reigns from 1993 captain of Dale’s unbeaten side, Grant Griffith who has accepted a coaching position at Hamiltons in Cape Town.. Griffie achieved an overall 65% win rate during his tenure as coach
“Cool Hand Luke” as the 42-year-old was known as during his rugby playing days understands the dynamics of sport and of a rugby player. He certainly has had his share of knocks, loss of form, injury, hitting the bottom of the form barrel and reaching the highs of success and riding the crest of the wave, a match winner with a potent boot who could punish even the most successful rugby teams. He knows how to fight back and regain confidence, how to exploit talent, what inspires and encourages players to reach their pinnacle of form.
On his appointment 23 years after leaving, Smith said: “I am very excited and an opportunity that I have longed for and waited patiently for - a nervous time, causing me sleepless nights as I ponder the enormous responsibility that this position will carry. And also, being watched by the ghosts of past Dale rugby coaches and players.
"There is no way to describe pulling on the Dale First XV rugby jersey.”
He remembers the mixture of pride and indescribably nervousness. He learnt the Dale style of play and had to adapt his style and marry the two. He is also being cognisant of words of encouragement, admonition and praise from Dale rugby coach Mickey Patterson. What he learnt at Dale stood him in good stead playing rugby at top level around the world.
As with his predecessor, Grant “Griffie” Griffiths, he comes from an impeccable Dale rugby back ground and including playing for the 1990 unbeaten Dale side under Andrew Bennett where he was the star flyhalf and vice-captain of the team. That team produced two international rugby players - Stephen Hall for France in 2002 and Luke himself in 1995 for the South African Sevens team in Hong Kong.
Smith brings to Dale a wealth of rugby experience from the International arena where he played competitively and with and against many players who had international experience. In South Africa he represented four provinces - Border under coach Gert Smal, Eastern Province, under “Grizz” Whiley the New Zealand and all Black coach, Northern Transvaal (Blue Bulls) and Natal where he played a pivotal role in the side winning the Currie Cup. Incidentally at Northern Transvaal Naas Botha took over at Northern Transvaal from star Dale fly-half, Len Gerber. Luke, a star Dale fly-half, subsequently took over from Naas as the Northern Transvaal fly-half
Playing in the English Premiership league he represented Saracens under coach François Pienaar as well as Rotherham Titans. He scored a total of 255 points in English Premiership matches. After one match a reporter said: “Smith, the South African who was drafted in as cover for the injured Jannie de Beer, equalled the Zurich Premiership record when he put over his ninth penalty during the game. The Daily Telegraph reported: on "a faultless kicking display by Saracens fly-half Luke Smith”.
In Scotland Smith played for Glasgow Caledonians (injury prevented him from playing for Scotland “B”) and could have played for Scotland as he was qualified through his grandmother.
He played rugby in Italy for Mirana near Venice as well as in France playing for Racing-Métro. In England he also played for Birmingham Solihull, Coventry and Esher.
Playing for Cambridge Primary School Under-10 against Dale, Smith's side suffered a heavy defeat and as a result wanted where to come to Dale at an early age. Unfortunately for Dale, Selborne College gained him for his high school playing days till the last year when he decided and insisted on coming to Dale with one of his friends Michael Woudberg. This was eventually a first dream come true for him.
Smith received two Rugby Honours awards. One from Selborne College and the other from Dale College for his brilliance on the rugby field. In the 1990 Dale unbeaten First XV he scored a record 207 points (24 penalties, 47 conversion, 7 drop goals and 5 tries). This record was broken three years later by Sean Sharp. Smith was also in the Border Schools Craven Week Team for three seasons.
Smith knows that he has the ghosts of past Dale First XV coaches watching his every move. He knows that he has big boots to fill in meeting the expectations of Dalians, Old Dalians and Dale rugby supporters. He knows that he has Dale rugby traditions to uphold and to try and equal or emulate the successes of every Dale coach who has taken charge and control of the “Grave Yard” as the CB Jennings rugby field is referred to He recognises the important role as well of keeping a watching brief and offering advice to all those playing on the ODU Memorial fields and the fields of Dale Junior.
His goal is to build Dale Rugby. His goal is to ensure that his team is the best that can be selected. His gaol is to watch as many practices of other teams to identify talent for development and promotion up the ranks and teams.
Smith is looking forward to working with all the coaches at Dale College and to ensure that Dale rugby goes from strength to strength. In addition to his Dale duties, he is helping out coaching the Buffalo Club First Team backline as they prepare for the Super 12 Club competition.