Wednesday, 1 December 2010

So long Mr Venty Spleen (sort of...)

Last night it was revealed that Brendan Venter, everyone's favourite pantomime villain, is heading back to South Africa.

With a swoop of his cape and a maniacal laugh, the 40-year-old Saracens' director of rugby is exiting stage left and returning to his homeland citing "family reasons."

When you see the name Brendan Venter it is usually accompanied with the words "colourful", "headstrong" or sometimes even "arrogant."  However, I will miss all the hoopla surrounding one of the most controversial figures in rugby when he jets off back to the southern hemisphere.

The former centre's knuckles must be red-raw from all the raps he's received during his 18-months at Saracens.  Firstly, he was served with a four-week suspended sentence in January for criticising referee David Rose.  Then he was slapped with a 10-week match-day ban in May for "provocative and inappropriate gestures and comments" towards opposition fans - also known as doing the wanker sign, allegedly.

This forced Venter to watch Saracens play, and subsequently lose, last season's Premiership final from the discomfort of his own living room.  Add into the mix criticism for the way he ate a biscuit during a disciplinary hearing and the fine he was given last month for remarks made after a Heineken Cup tie, and you can see why the media is sad to see him go.

However, there does seem to be another side to Venter's personality.  I saw an interview with him on The Rugby Club a few months ago which went some way to quash the image usually presented of the former Springbok.  Sarries players spoke of him warmly and talked about how Venter, a qualified doctor, had visited them at their homes when their children were sick - such is the family focus at Vicarage Road.

It's not a side of Venter that is seen very often.  I suppose it ruins his panto villain image and he can't be having that - especially at this time of the year when Z-list celebrities are dusting off their Widow Twanky costumes.

Therefore, I think it is real a shame that Venter is stepping down and moving into the newly created role of technical director.  He will continue to advise from afar while first-team coach Mark McCall becomes director of rugby and Andy Farrell takes McCall's old job.

Vilified and commended for his style in equal measure, it is no doubt the Aviva Premiership will be a much duller place without the ever controversial Brendan Venter.

PS: He's behind you.

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