DURBAN - The news that Dick Muir is in the process of returning to the Sharks as backline coach for the 2018 Super Rugby season should be seen as a major positive for the Durban franchise.
The 52-year-old Muir is a stalwart of rugby in KZN, even if he did sneak in a few years at the end of his playing career at Western Province, a time in which they won the Currie Cup in 1997.
Muir went on to win five Test caps for the Springboks at No 12 under Nick Mallett, a coach who recognised that Muir had the creative skills at No 12 that could unleash the potential of the backline.
Muir, though, is quintessentially a KZN man, albeit schooled at Queens College in the Eastern Cape (his family were of farming stock in neighbouring southern KZN), and post-playing career he came back to the Sharks to rescue them from the freefall they were in under Kevin Putt.
From 2005 to 2007 he rebuilt the Sharks to the point that they hosted the 2007 Super 12 final, which was won by the Bulls.
Muir became an assistant coach under Peter de Villiers at the Springboks, along with another future Sharks coach in Gary Gold, and when the Boks succumbed to Bryce Lawrence’s whistle in the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Wellington, Muir moved on to an ill-fated tenure at the Lions, which ended in the court.
Muir is a colourful character and a highly positive energy force - that cannot be argued - and Robert du Preez's decision to bring Muir back into the Sharks’ fold underpins chief executive Gary Teichmann’s vision of restoring the old Natal rugby culture that won the province a number of Currie Cup titles in the 1990s.
Teichmann, Du Preez, Muir: teammates in glory years for the Sharks and now colleagues in an attempt to revive the Sharks to their heyday.
It means that somebody will have to make way in the current Sharks coaching staff, and you would have to think that, as things stand, stalwart assistants in Sean Everitt (backs) and Ryan Strudwick (defence) are under threat.
I hope I'm wrong because they are Sharks men to the core and have served the province with distinction, under a number of coaches - Jake White, Gary Gold and now Du Preez. Those assistants are survivors who have proved their mettle.
Whatever the case, Muir is a big name in South African and world rugby circles. He has the credentials. He has been there and done that, both as a player and a coach.
There are many Sharks fans who, to this day, would like to put Muir on the spot and ask him how the Sharks conspired to lose that Super 12 final to the Bulls, which in the last 10 minutes had captain John Smit and kicker Percy Montgomery on the sidelines, with hands held to their heads, as what should have been a Sharks victory imploded before their eyes.
Muir’s assistant on that day was John Plumtree, who would go on to be one of the Sharks’ most successful coaches before being unceremoniously axed by new CEO John Smit.
Three years later Smit’s three-year contract terminated, and it was not renewed (either by Smit’s choice or that of the board - this much is unclear). In any case, Smit moved on.
Teichmann is now addressing various issues at the Sharks such as financial problems (crowd non-attendance among them); Smit was faced with similar issues.
Whatever the case, the addition of the charismatic Muir can only be a good thing for the Sharks. He is a fanatical about playing attacking rugby and a man of his experience will have a host of young, fleet-footed backs to work with.
At the time of going to press, Teichmann was reported as saying that “nothing had been finalised and an announcement will be made when there is something official”.