One of Sharks Director of Rugby Brendan Venter’s greatest goals is to leave a lasting legacy at a place he has come to love and for a union and its players who he has come to greatly respect, according to Sharks website editor, Michael Marnewick.
Some people want to achieve tangible success, others want to be remembered for leaving a legacy, but right now, Sharks Director of Rugby Brendan Venter is in the process of building that legacy.
While The Sharks might be top of the log right now, their position doesn’t excite him as much as the talent he has and the scope for growth embracing his own coaching philosophy which is about unleashing the true potential of these elite athletes.
“Losing 12 players to injury and the Springboks meant we had to use the Currie Cup tournament to develop our youngsters and create culture where the youngsters understand what is required of them if they want to play professional rugby,” he explains.
His philosophies on coaching, on rugby and on developing people display not only a level of commitment to achievement, but also a deeply-rooted desire to make a positive contribution, a difference, in people’s lives.
“If you ask what I believe, I feel that people have immense potential and if you support and back them, and if you explain what is expected of them, people will live up to that potential. That’s my coaching philosophy.
“But you need to be able to work hard and understand that. And if you do that, you will be successful. I believe that the quality of player at The Sharks, with hard work, means they will be very successful.”
He has been very impressed with that quality, and expects it to pay off.
“I’ve been quite outspoken about this: The Sharks are a really good team. They have good individuals and it’s a pleasure working with them and they have very good juniors as well. I believe that The Shark team can potentially kick on and become very good.”
Current CEO John Smit invited Venter to play a similar role at The Sharks to the one Smit had, as a player, encountered at Saracens in the UK. The coach’s involvement produced outstanding – and very quick – results, not only in terms of on-field success but also personal growth for the players.
“The reason John Smit asked me to come in was because he wanted an environment much like that at Saracens,” Venter explains. “We call it a ‘principle-driven environment’. We run it by principles and if we all adhere to those principles, we will be successful. If we get good people and treat them very well, they will be successful for us.”
His goal when he started, and which will continue to be a clear aim throughout his involvement with The Sharks, is to promote and build steady progress.
“The main thing for me, my biggest objective, is to leave The Sharks better than when I first arrived. So that when I go away, I’ve added enough value, so that we can all look back and say ‘that was a good time in our lives; that we learned certain things, we did certain things and we explored our own abilities as human beings’.
“I am not really trophy-driven, I’m more performance and individual driven. I want people to become as good as they can be. Winning is nice, but I believe success is a consequence of these things.
“Yes, we will be judged by people on the outside in terms of trophies, but that is not how I judge myself and my players. I have various, quite rigid and difficult measurements and standards that I want the players to live up to. I can measure them and if they deliver those things but we get beaten on the day, then the opposition was just better than us.
“But those things are closely linked to our values as a team.”
Very much a fan of ‘controlling the controllables’, he sees his role as facilitator and driver of people taking responsibility so that they may enjoy development and personal growth.
“I can’t decide who I play against, nor can I determine how well they play against us, I can only control those things I am in control of.
“The ball can bounce badly, a decision can go against you – would it be a disaster if we lost? In my opinion no. For me, it’s about installing these values and developing people, developing an organisation that is better than it was yesterday, and tomorrow will be better than today.”
It appears that it’s not so much a job as a passion for him. And what better place to be doing it?
“I love it here, I must admit, I’m very impressed with Durban. “It’s a wonderful place with great people. The Sharks have a great environment and potentially it could go really, really well here. It’s the little things like the quality of the people at the union, the friendliness and the goodness – it’s a good place.”
And sometimes when you give, you receive in turn and he admits that has been the case.
“Our lives are enriched by relationships, that’s the bottom line, and my being at The Sharks has enriched my life. I’ve met people I would never have met before, I’ve learned things. The Sharks Union is a really nice place to spend time.
“One of the points of difference – for me – about Durban, is that it can’t be difficult for us to recruit, because Durban is an unbelievable place and we must leverage that situation.
“There are few places in the world nicer to spend your time than in Durban.”