Natal legend Tony Watson pens open letter: Sharks in free fall

DURBAN – The Sharks’ recent run of poor performances has prompted Natal legend Tony Watson to pen a hard-hitting open letter to the Sharks Board.

“I am acutely aware of the challenges facing professional rugby franchises in South Africa, but it is the duty of the Board of the Sharks and its CEO to embrace those elements of the business that they can control and influence.

“I believe there are vital issues at the Sharks that are not being addressed, and this ultimately impacts on the team. We need to ask the Board the following…

“What is the process of appointing the CEO of the Sharks, and is it consistent with the appointment of senior people in a large business entity?

“The appointment of John Smit was made by Stephen Saad, the chairman of the Sharks Board and a hugely successful businessman, who clearly took the view that the name in the chair was more important than the business acumen.

“Would he have made the same appointment in his own business? I don’t think so.

“I know that Edward Griffiths of Saracens rugby club in England assisted John in his spell at the Sharks, which was not made public.

“By his own admission, John made some poor decisions, but at least he had the courage of his convictions.

“Gary Teichmann succeeded Smit, and at the time, I suggested to him that he build a team around himself to ensure success.

“Clearly Gary had financial constraints, and argued that there were a number of existing management and players whose contracts were a financial drain on the franchise, and thus a blend of new and existing individuals was assembled.

“When Robert du Preez was appointed coach, I asked Teich whether he believed that prospective sponsors and business partners would share his vision for the Sharks with Robert as the head coach?

“Clearly he and the Board believed so, and the Du Preez coaching era was born! Well, for almost two seasons, we have witnessed a Sharks team in free fall, with no clearly defined pattern of play.

“It is a team lacking in leadership both on and off the field; a team capable of producing brief spells of mesmerising rugby, but also a team that can get beaten by 50 points in our own back garden.

“It is a team playing with fear – that’s how I sum up the Sharks. Let me support this statement. Two years ago, Curwin Bosch missed a crucial tackle in the Currie Cup final, and was subsequently and most conveniently banished to the bench.

“Yet us Sharks fans are subjected every week to missed tackles by the incumbent flyhalf, and opposition coaches target this channel with astounding success!

“In a pre-season meeting attended by Gary Teichmann, Robert du Preez and Dick Muir to discuss the importance of a selection committee, Robert made it very clear that he was in the fortunate position that his three sons picked themselves, and therefore there would be no controversy.

“Instead, for two years we have been starved of the mercurial talent of Curwin Bosch, and the team has had to endure a selection policy that must surely create nasty undercurrents.

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Curwin Bosch has finally been given a chance at flyhalf by Sharks coach Robert du Preez. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

“And while all of this turmoil is happening at ground zero, our Board of highly successful business people continue to tread water in the hope that things will right themselves.

“If the Board was more representative of people who actually understood the dynamics of a professional sports outfit, then perhaps there would be a proactive approach rather than a passive, wait-and-see one.

“People of the calibre of Errol Stewart, Stefan Terblanche, Craig Jamieson, Wahl Bartmann and Ian McIntosh should be considered to serve on the Board.

“I am encouraged by the return to the Board of Brian van Zyl, the former CEO, who I believe to be an extremely competent rugby administrator.

“This team needs a fresh start! There should be a complete clean-out of the coaching staff and an interim team installed, the likes of Ian Mac, Dick Muir, Pat Lambie and Sean Everitt.

“There needs to be a drastic reduction in the number of contracted players and support staff, and the creation of a team environment based on loyalty and pride!

“We need to move on from the memories of the glory days of the 90s. We need to change to an all-encompassing support base of all cultures, so that we once again make this team our own.

“We need to make the Board of the Sharks understand that we will not tolerate their lack of action in addressing fundamental issues.”

* Tony Watson played 144 games on the wing for Natal between 1985 and 1993, with a record-breaking 128 of them consecutively. He scored 80 tries.

* On Thursday, coach Robert du Preez picked Curwin Bosch at flyhalf for Saturday’s match against the Waratahs in Sydney, with his son Robert Junior on the bench.



The Mercury

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