Nick Mallett admitted to an apparoach from the Sharks before current coach John Plumtree found out that his contract would not be renewed. Picture: Duif du Toit

Durban – Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has taken umbrage with the Sharks for painting him as the villain in the John Plumtree saga that unfolded last week, when the coach found out in the media that he was to be sacked.

Mallett had been quoted in a Sunday newspaper as saying he had been asked if he was interested in the Sharks coaching position, but had turned down the offer. This week, new chief executive John Smit said he was “disappointed” that Mallett had leaked the story to the press in what amounted to “grandstanding”.

“This is simply untrue, and very unfair,” Mallett said on Saturday.

“It is very unfortunate that I have been blamed for the manner in which John Plumtree found out his contract would not be renewed.

“I was phoned by a journalist and asked a direct question: ‘Did the Sharks approach you?’ I was not going to lie, and answered that they had, but I had told them that I am not interested in coaching rugby at this point in my life. I am happy doing work with SuperSport.”

The approach to Mallett came via a phone call from Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths, who was acting as an intermediary for Smit, who for the past two years has played for the London club.

“There was no mention made of confidentiality,” Mallett said. “And in any case, I assumed that Plumtree had been told. This is usually how it works in rugby. The existing coach is informed, and then approaches are made to prospective successors.

“But when the story broke, it soon became apparent that Plumtree hadn’t been informed, and I was uncomfortable with that, but it was not my fault that he found out in the press.”

Smit said he had scheduled a meeting with Plumtree for the Monday to tell him face-to-face, but after the story had broken an angry Plumtree did not want to meet him. They have still to meet formally, and on Tuesday Plumtree’s lawyers will meet the Sharks to finalise his payout.

The Sharks play the Blues in a Super Rugby match at Kings Park on Saturday, and it is questionable whether Plumtree will be in charge.

Mallett said he felt sorry for Plumtree. “I would never embarrass a fellow coach,” he said. – Sunday Tribune