Respect is earned. John Plumtree as a player and coach did his time. He earned the right to respect but he was shown none in the manner of his axing as Sharks coach.
There are those who are lauding former Sharks and Springbok captain and new Sharks CEO John Smit for making what is being called ‘the difficult decisions’ with immediate effect.
I am not among them.
I believe Plumtree, true to the Sharks for two decades, deserved to be treated with integrity. He deserved to be judged on his pedigree as a coach. This was a decision that was premeditated and it is why Plumtree simply felt he couldn’t continue to see out the last six weeks of Super Rugby when the incoming CEO and Board had no faith in his ability.
Plumtree would have got the required financial payout but payment should have come with integrity and common decency and he was never shown this.
The Sharks administration has long described the Kwazulu-Natalians as a brand – and they treated their head coach more as a dispensable object than engaging human being.
Plumtree led the Sharks to the Super Rugby and Currie Cup finals a year ago. He was named South African coach of the year and yet he was considered not good enough to continue as coach of the Sharks six months later?
Smit played under Plumtree but Smit was also second choice for the Sharks in 2011 when Plumtree preferred the playing dynamic of Bismarck du Plessis. Plumtree was outspoken about who he rated the better option in 2011. Smit, by his action, has been as outspoken about how he rates Plumtree as a Sharks coach.
There was a history and it would appear that history has come into play.
Plumtree won’t talk ill of the Sharks or of Smit. It is not his style.
Smit has said all the right things in press conferences. It is his style.
The manner of the dismissal was a style I had never associated with Smit, as a player and leader of the Sharks and Springboks.
Smit’s decision has its supporters and only time can vindicate the decision.
But my criticism of Smit is not about whether to fire or retain Plumtree. It is all about how it was done.
I expected better. I know I am not alone.
The Sharks play the Blues this weekend and Plumtree will be willing them to victory. It is his way.
Why is it that the good guys in rugby get shafted? And the Sharks will only realise how much they shafted a good guy in his absence. This was a guy who gave 20 years service to the Sharks and espoused the cultural values of a team in which integrity was non negotiable.
He was a man who enjoyed success as a player and coach. He has not been judged on performance alone.
Plumtree will succeed as a coach elsewhere. The Sharks will have success in the future, but what the brand managers of the Sharks – or Smit – won’t have success with is putting a spin on how easy it was to turn on one of their own under the guise of tough love.
It sucks. Go well Plum.