Image courtesy of Sharks Rugby
In one of rugby’s worst kept secrets, the Sharks have announced the return of John Plumtree as head coach, a decade after his last stint with the team ended. Given the rather mixed bag of coaching results we’ve seen in those years, I think many Sharks fans will be pleased to see Plum back at what he himself describes as his rugby home.
It's hard to dispute his history with the team – he played for the Sharks under the legendary Ian McIntosh, and put in 80 appearances for the Durban side between 1988 and 1997, during which time, the Sharks won the Currie Cup twice, in 1990 and 1996. John took up coaching not long after his time playing with the Sharks came to an end, and had successful stints with Swansea (Wales) and Wellington (New Zealand), before returning to the Sharks for a brief run as assistant coach in 2007, during which time the team hosted the Super Rugby final, losing out narrowly to the Bulls (a game that haunts me to this day…bygones). But the period most Sharks fans will remember fondly are the years between 2008 and 2013, when Plum took the reins as head coach, getting off to a fantastic start by leading the team to its first Currie Cup title since he was a player in 1996. The team also won the Currie Cup under his guidance in 2010, and once again made the Super Rugby final under his watch in 2012. Safe to say he’s a man who knows the Sharks set up.
He hasn’t exactly been slacking since being rather unceremoniously let go by John Smit midway through the season in 2013, a move Smit has since acknowledged he regrets. After leaving the Sharks, he has worked with the Irish and Japanese national teams, the Hurricanes, and most recently, as assistant coach in the All Blacks set up. I felt for him when he was let go by the Sharks, and I really felt for him when he was one of the scapegoats in the inevitable coaching purge after the All Blacks’ series loss to Ireland in 2022.
Admittedly, there was a feeling that the Sharks had hit something of a rut by the end of Plum’s previous tenure, although there’s every chance he may have been able to lift them out of it back then. We’ll never know. What we do know is that he is returning with a decade’s more coaching experience under his belt, a strong history with the franchise, and an evident passion to bring a positive culture, and hopefully some consistent winning ways, to that franchise. He takes the reins on 1 July, and personally, I can’t wait to see what his next tenure has in store for us.