For years the Sharks have lead South African rugby, if not world rugby, in the way they market their brand and team oozing success at all levels, but it seems to me that lately they are doing their level best to destroy all this.
Twenty years ago the Sharks emerged from South African rugby’s version of middle-earth in the most spectacular fashion, winning the Currie Cup in their centenary year in a spectacular final against the much fancied Blue Bulls.
Since that day, Sharks rugby went from strength to strength and basically ruled rugby on the local scene in the 1990’s, creating one of the most powerful brands in world rugby.
Not only did they control things on the pitch producing Springboks left, right and center, but their administration was the envy of rugby unions all over the world. It was the union everyone wanted to play for or become like.
Now fast forward to today.
In recent years the Sharks have fumbled and stumbled both on and off the pitch.
Sure there was successes in reaching the 2007 Super 14 final and winning the Currie Cup in 2008, but in-between and following that one cannot help think that the Sharks brand and playing ability have slowly regressed to the point where even the most ardent of supporter has to be asking himself what the hell the union is up to?
They have lost players (not always under the best of circumstances) the likes of Brad Barritt (top performer in the Guinness Premier League currently), Frans Steyn (revelation in the French Top 14) and Butch James who recently was very critical about the union and the way they deal with people.
Then there was the hired guns in Hernandez, Goode and now Pretorius it seems who if we are honest, failed and/or boggled the mind… Even the acquisition of Steve Meyer left a very sour taste after he inexplicably retired from rugby just after arriving in Durban.
To add to all this we had the very public and very ugly legal wrangling between the Sharks and the Lions regarding the services of Louis Ludik (who has yet to prove his worth in gold) and Willem Alberts. They did win both those battles, but the lessons learned from these two situation should surely have taught and prepared the Sharks for their dealings with Lionel Mapoe which has now also gone the legal dispute route with the Cheetahs president, Harold Verster, insisting that Mapoe is legally contracted to the Cheetahs and they will not give him a release certificate.
Now all of a sudden rumours are also flying around that the Sharks are set to lose their inspirational skipper and stalwart John Smit and yet another talented back in Ruan Pienaar.
It is also not really an option for the Sharks union to hide their apparent administrative shortcomings and fall back on or point to recent performances on the field since that too has frankly been rubbish of late where they were knocked out in the semi-finals of the Currie Cup last year by the Cheetahs and only managed a disappointing 9th on the Super 14 log.
And whether true or untrue, rumours about rifts in the Sharks camp has not helped their cause in any way.
Essentially, the once powerful and successful PR machine at work in the Sharks which created that enviable brand in the early 90’s and early 21st century has all but disappeared as the union seem to struggle from one legal battle to the next, squashing unsavoury rumours or trying to justify player performances.
Sitting from the outside looking in, it seems the Sharks management and administration failed to move with the times failing to re-invent themselves to stay ahead of the pack in what now has become to a neutral observer nothing more than an outdated old boys club.
The Sharks are too good and too important for SA Rugby to continue the way they are doing now, and it is about time someone does something about it.