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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Venter finds the cure
Brendan Venter savours the moment after helping the Exiles to their first ever piece of major silverware
Venter has agreed to stay with London Irish
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By Phil Harlow
BBC Sport Online

Dr Brendan Venter finally found the cure for more than a century of London Irish underachievement, inspiring the Exiles to the first piece of major silverware in the club's 104-year history.

London Irish's 38-7 demolition of pre-match favourites Northampton in the Powergen Cup final represents the current high point of a season which still may yield more success.

Besides the Powergen Cup victory, London Irish are also in the Parker Pen Shield semi-finals and currently lie third in the Zurich Premiership.

Much of this success can be attributed to Venter's coaching and playing skills and to the impact his return to the club has had on his fellow players.

  Brendan Venter factfile
Born: 29 December 1969, Johannesburg
Height: 1.83m
International caps: 17
International tries: 2
He is described by his former Springbok team-mate Rassie Erasmus as someone who "lives for rugby," and he expects nothing less from his team-mates at the Madjeski Stadium.

As demanding as he may be, Venter runs a relaxed outfit allowing all his players to vote on any issues that affect the squad, although his nickname of 'Mugabe' may suggest that his democratic nature only goes so far.

Venter's attitude of putting the team first can be seen in his selfless gesture at the end of Saturday's match at Twickenham.

Following Geoff Appleford's match-clinching interception try, Venter ran over to the substitute's bench demanding to be substituted to allow his fellow players to experience the occasion.

An astute recruitment policy has seen a succession of hungry and ambitious players join Venter at the Madjeski Stadium.

Players such as fly-half Barry Everitt, full-back Michael Horak and flanker Paul Gustard all arrived at London Irish with points to prove.


And following the team's unprecedented success this season, those points have all been demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt.

His sharp analytical approach has enabled the Exiles to compete with - and more often than not, defeat - teams with far more star names and financial clout.

The 32-year-old Venter has succeeded in making the most of both his own talent and from the collection of players that some tipped for relegation at the start of the Zurich Premiership.

Brendan Venter was a major presence in South Africa's midfield
Venter won 17 Springbok caps
Players such as winger Paul Sackey and fellow centre Geoff Appleford have progressed from the peripheries of the Exiles squad to making appearances for England in the 'A' team and the Sevens squad respectively.

The South African's uncompromising and physical style of play is the main feature of his game.

Just ask Northampton scrum-half Matt Dawson, the victim of a particularly brutal second-half tackle from Venter in the Powergen Cup final.

Venter also missed most of the 1999 World Cup after being sent-off during the group game against Uruguay.

Suspensions and injuries restricted Venter to just 17 South African caps, but there is no doubt that his talent and commitment deserved many more.

The centre had been expected to return to his Cape Town practice at the end of the season, but has been persuaded to extend his contract with the Exiles by another year.

But if the London Irish players and fans have anything to do with it he won't be going anywhere.

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