He will embrace his new role with the same leadership, spirit and vigour he displayed as captain and player
The appointment of World Cup-winning former Springbok captain John Smit as CEO is more than just getting back an icon, it will push the Sharks in a new direction.
The appointment, which has been speculated about for months and further highlighted in media reports last week, was formalised when the Board of Directors of the Sharks (Pty) Ltd announced the appointment of Smit as the new Chief Executive Officer with effect from July 1.
Smith will take over the reins from current CEO Brian van Zyl, who will mentor the record-breaking Bok hooker until his pre-agreed retirement date of 28 February next year.
Stephen Saad, the Chairman of the Sharks board, said the decision to select Smit as the CEO could show a push from the Sharks in a new direction.
"John Smit's appointment marks the dawn of a new and exciting era at the Sharks," Saad said in a statement.
"We look forward to welcoming one of the favourite sons of South Africa to his new role as CEO.
"We pledge our support and commitment to him and have every confidence that he will embrace his new role, with the same leadership, spirit and vigour that he displayed as the most capped Springbok captain and player of all time," Saad added.
Meanwhile the Sharks also paid tribute to Van Zyl, who joined the Sharks on the 1 February 1994.
Van Zyl will have served the Sharks with distinction for 20 years when he retires.
With his sound administration and business knowledge, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Sharks have become not only one of the most financially sound unions but also a sporting brand of international acclaim. He has commanded the respect of the South African Rugby Union, team management, past and present players, staff of the Sharks (Pty) Ltd and the other stakeholders whom he has interacted with over the years.
"On behalf of the Board of the Sharks (Pty) Ltd, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brian for his invaluable contribution to the Sharks," Saad said.
"His knowledge, experience and understanding of the game and its administration is outstanding.
"At the end of his tenure, he leaves the Sharks in good stead and we salute him for the many years of dedication, commitment and service that he has given, not only to the Sharks (Pty) Ltd, but to rugby in South Africa.
"In the past two decades under his stewardship, the Sharks have become the most followed provincial franchise in the Southern Hemisphere. He has the respect of both supporters and adversaries alike. Brian, we salute your unwavering service to the Sharks and thank you for your continued support including the mentorship of John."
Having spent 13 years of his professional career with the Sharks, Smit will make a welcome return to a province that he loves and where it all began for him.
He became the most respected and decorated player in South African history and his achievements both on and off the field are well documented. He is a natural leader and has an innate ability to rally his troops and get the best out of his team.
When he takes up his new position, Smit will inherit an experienced management support team at the Sharks, who will offer him guidance and advice as he settles into his new position.
To this end, Leigh Heard who has spent 21 years with the Sharks (Pty) Ltd as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will assume the responsibility of Chief Operating Officer (COO). Heard's role will include both financial and commercial functions and will help provide continuity and preserve the corporate memory of the successful Sharks management team.
Sharks coach John Plumtree also expressed his delight at the return of Smit.
"On behalf of team management and the players, I extend our congratulations to John on his appointment," Plumtree said.
"Over the years, many of us have shared special memories with John and we look forward to working with and supporting him in his new capacity."
Van Zyl was another to heap praise on the record-breaking former Bok captain.
"I wish to congratulate John on his appointment and wish him the very best in his new role," the outgoing CEO, Van Zyl, said.
"He was an inspirational captain and team man and I know that I leave the Sharks in good hands.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board of the Sharks (Pty) Ltd, stakeholders and my staff for their assistance and support over the years. I have a few months to go before retirement and will use this time to ensure that the black and white baton is securely placed in John's hands and so contribute to the successful Sharks legacy. I leave a proud man."
Saad concluded by saying: "John is currently playing for Saracens in England and upon his return to South Africa, the Sharks will hold a press conference."
John Smit's statistics and achievements:
Was capped 111 times for the Springboks in a 12 year international career (2000-2011);
Represented South Africa at three World Cups;
Captained the Springboks on 83 occasions;
Represented the Sharks on 186 occasions (61 Currie Cup and 125 Super Rugby caps) between 1998 and 2011;
Captained the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory in 2007;
Tri-Nations winner in 2004 and 2009;
Captained the Springboks in their series win against the British and Irish Lions in 2009;
Retired as the most-capped Springbok of all time and the most-capped international captain of all-time.