THE Sharks confirmed on Tuesday that John Smit will take over as CEO from Brian van Zyl, who retires in February next year.
News of Smit’s appointment broke last week, but the decision was only finalised at the union’s board meeting on Monday.
The former Sharks and Springbok World Cup-winning captain negotiated his appointment with the union while he was playing rugby at Saracens in England. He had signed a contract to play for Toulon in France for a year but the union successfully negotiated his release.
Smit assumes his role on July 1, but will be under Van Zyl’s wing until he retires after 20 years at the helm on February 28.
The 35-year-old acknowledged there would be doubts about his ability to lead the administration side of the union but said the wise heads around him would guide him in the initial stages while he empowered himself.
“It will be up to me to make sure that I upskill myself and to try to bring in fresh ideas and something new,” Smit told Eyewitness News.
“There are amazing people around me and that was one of the talking points amongst the board and around the decision process.
“There are some invaluable businessmen who are part of that board, who have offered their insights and mentorship along the way, without which I would never be able to accept a job like this….
“Leigh Heard (chief operating officer) has been at the union for many years and she can do the job as well as anybody else. To be able to work with someone with the experience that she has got is going to be of massive value.”
Smit takes over at a time when the union is trying to regain spectator confidence by beefing up security measures around Kings Park Stadium on match days following the killing of former Royal Marine Brett Williams at the venue three weeks ago.
Chairman Stephen Saad said Smit’s appointment “marks the dawn of a new and exciting era at The Sharks (Pty) Ltd”.
“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 said.
Sharks coach John Plumtree, who has coached Smit but will now be reporting to him, wished Smit the best in the new role.
• After being laid low by a throat injury for almost two months, fiery Luke Watson will return as captain of the Southern Kings when they face the Bulls in their Super Rugby showdown at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
“It is fantastic to have Luke back and I am looking forward to seeing him play against the Bulls,” Southern Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said when he named his starting line-up on Tuesday.
“In Luke’s absence Andries Strauss has done a superb job captaining the team. Lock Steven Sykes also did a fine job leading the forwards.”
With George Byron