Sharks mum on Smit's appointment

Wed, 10 Apr 2013 10:28
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The Sharks have thrown a veil of silence over reports that former Springbok captain John Smit will become the new CEO of the franchise.

Sharks officials have thrown a veil of silence over reports that World Cup-winning former Springbok captain John Smit will become the new Chief Executive Officer of the franchise.

Reports in the Durban media suggested that Smit is poised to return to Durban to replace under-fire CEO Brian van Zyl.

However, no official confirmation or denial was forthcoming on Wednesday.

Stephen Saad, the chairman of the board of The Sharks (PTY) Ltd, told this website he was "not able" to comment on the rumours and suggested he will be able to "give more clarity" next week.

"The Board of The Sharks (Pty) Ltd will be convening on Monday, April 15 and a media release will be issued on Tuesday."

The Durban-based Mercury said that while Van Zyl is due to retire only next February, Smit could well take over from as early as July.

The newspaper suggested it was a fait accompli that Smit will replace Van Zyl at some stage.

Smit, who is playing out his career with top English club Saracens, has agreed to join French giants Toulon on a one-year deal.

However, the Mercury suggested the Sharks were able to negotiate his release.

There have been behind-the-scenes talks with Smit for some months, which will counter conjecture that there is a changing of the guard at the Sharks because of the recent wave of negative publicity stemming from violence and crime in and around the Kings Park precinct on match days, including the well-publicised murder of former Royal Marine Brett Williams.

Van Zyl has been heavily criticised for his handling of the crisis, firstly by not telling the public about the incident, and then for not responding quickly enough afterwards.

The current CEO, Van Zyl, is highly regarded throughout South African rugby for the tough battles he has fought over a remarkable 20-year career that has often seen the Sharks win legal disputes with opposition unions over player contracts.

The battle-hardened Van Zyl has often taken on governing body the South African Rugby Union (SARU) to protect the interests of the Sharks, and regularly stood toe-to-toe with former union executive officer Riaan Oberholzer.

Smit, however, is one of the favourite sons of Kings Park, having played for the Sharks for 13 consecutive years.

In 2003 he was made Springbok captain and went on to break a multitude of records, including most Tests as captain (83) and most in total (111).

Smit was not immediately available for comment.

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