World Artists is a professional rugby management company that was formed in 1995 when rugby turned professional.
The business was started, and is still directed, by Jason Smith. Jason has extensive experience in managing the careers of professional rugby players and is currently based in Bath, England.
Over a 15 year period, he has built up an impressive list of contacts in the business. He has enjoyed working with some of the great names in the game and formed some lasting friendships.
His career as a rugby agent started during the 1995 RWC. He noticed the gap that appeared in the market when Rupert Murdoch kick-started the rebel rugby league competition, Super League. Whilst the administrators in rugby union hesitated to accept professionalism, Super League targeted various leading players.
Jason represented some members of the victorious Springbok RWC squad including Joost van der Westhuizen, Hennie Le Roux, James Small, Japie Mulder, Conrad Stoltz and Robbie Brink as well as other high profile players such as Andre Venter, Vlok Cilliers, Jacques Olivier and Tinus Linee. He eventually initiated the following transfers:
Tiaan Strauss (Western Province to Cronulla Sharks)
Andrew Aitken (Western Province to Perth Western Reds)
Christian Stewart (Western Province to Sydney Bulldogs)
Pieter Muller (Natal Sharks to Penrith Panthers)
Warren Brosnihan (Natal Sharks to Perth Western Reds)
Andy Marinos (Natal Sharks to Sydney Bulldogs)
Kevin Schraader (Blue Bulls to Sydney Bulldogs)
Hannes Venter (Blue Bulls to Sydney Bulldogs)
Heinrich Fuls (Eastern Province to Hunter Mariners)
Andre Erasmus (Grey College to Perth Western Reds)
Michael Horak (Grey College to Perth Western Reds)
Walter Campbell-McGeachy (SA Schools to Adelaide Rams)
As rugby union turned professional, most players rejected overtures from Super League and remained in rugby union. The players that had signed Super League contracts went to Australia but some returned after a short period and successfully became rugby union internationals. (e.g. Brosnihan, Aitken, Stewart, Marinos, Horak and Muller all played international rugby union on their return from Super League)
The most successful players in rugby league were undoubtedly Tiaan Strauss at Cronulla Sharks (who later chose to play rugby union in Australia, and became a RWC winner in 1999 representing the Wallabies) and Kevin Schraader at Sydney Bulldogs.
Jason has been particularly successful at marketing talented South African (and some Australian) players abroad and a number of these players succeeded in representing other countries;
England: Stuart Abbott, Michael Horak, Geoff Appleford
Scotland: Dan Parkes, Roland Reid
Ireland: Dion O’Cuinneagain
Wales: Peter Rogers, Andy Marinos
Italy: Carlo Del Fava, Roland de Marigny
Australia: Tiaan Strauss, Clyde Rathbone
Jason has worked with some great coaches but in 2001 he was particularly impressed by the approach, style and overall business plan of Heyneke Meyer. Meyer had been appointed coach of Blue Bulls after a successful start to his provincial coaching career with SWD Eagles. His plan was to develop the province with outstanding youngsters and to put a strong emphasis on improved strength and conditioning. Jason recognized an opportunity to build a strong relationship with a promising coach at a great province (that at the time was in a state of decline).
Over a period of five years he sent the following promising players to be developed by Heyneke Meyer at Blue Bulls – Victor Matfield (Griqualand West), Bakkies Botha (Falcons), Danie Coetzee (Cheetahs), Christo Bezuidenhout (Mpumulanga Pumas), Wessel Roux (Falcons), Andries Human (Boland), Jaco Engels (Boland), Gurthro Steenkamp (Cheetahs), Danie Thiart (SWD Eagles), Rayno Gerber (Leeds), Ettienne Botha (Falcons) and Dries Scholtz (Griqualand West).
Whilst working closely with Meyer, he developed a reputation for negotiating successful contracts and with it, an impressive client list followed - including profiles such as Kees Lensing, Adriaan Strauss, Richard Bands, Geo Cronje, Adriaan Fondse, Cliff Milton, Francois van Schouwenburg, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Hilton Lobberts, Derick Kuun, Jacques Cronje, Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn, J-L Potgieter, Johan Roets and Hennie Daniller.
In 2005, Anthony Johnson joined World Artists and has developed into one of the leading agents in world rugby. This is what Jason Smith says about Anthony…
"You have to have a fairly thick skin to work in this industry. Whilst we often celebrate signing a client, marketing his talent and finding him a great deal, this can sometimes be matched by losing a client to a competitive agency.
I like to call Anthony "The Silent Assassin"’ because he is very good at signing players we want on our books.
"Anthony thrives in the competitive atmosphere. He enjoys the highs and deals with the lows. His work ethic is unmatched. A person can have all the fancy degrees but in this business what is needed is an ability to work hard and listen. The process is simple - sign the player, market the player and then sell the player and Anthony is excellent at getting the job done.
"The process includes getting visas, passports and birth certificates organized efficiently and quickly, making sure show reels of clients are recent, communicating with players, their parents and coaches. He understands market value and has the experience to negotiate good contract fees for clients. He has also developed an intimate knowledge of the South African domestic scene and is able to create a pathway for a young player. He is quality."
In 2009, Shaun Johnson joined World Artists. Shaun is brother of Anthony Johnson and he assists Anthony with the work load required to make sure we provide optimum service to all clients.
In 2009, Dane Galley was appointed marketing manager at World Artists. He has quickly adapted to the role and brokered strong relationships with amongst other brands - Surf4 Cars, Jimmy Sauces, Vida E Café, Brothers for Life, Vitamin Water, Power Balance, Under Armour, RugbyTech, adidas, USN and Fossil.
In 2011, Kyle John Leigh joined World Artists as Client & Media Manager, bringing with him valuable people skills and extensive media knowledge.
Over the last 15 years, World Artists have represented many profiles from the Southern Hemisphere who have signed to join clubs in Europe. The most prominent transfers are;
Federico Mendez (Natal Sharks to Bath)
Michael Horak (Perth Western Reds to Leicester Tigers)
Dion O' Cuinneagain (Western Province to Sale Sharks)
Shaun Platford (Natal Sharks to Bedford)
Marius Hurter (Northern Transvaal to Newcastle Falcons)
Jarrod Cunningham (Wellington Hurricanes to London Irish)
Jake Boer (Villagers RFC to London Irish)
Peter Rogers (Golden Lions to London Irish)
Simon Berridge (Western Province to London Irish)
Dawie Theron (Griqualand West to Sale Sharks)
Luke Smith (Border Bulldogs to Glasgow Caledonians)
John Connolly (Queensland Reds to Stade Francais)
Stuart Abbott (Western Province to Wasps)
Andy Marinos (Western Province to Newport)
Grant Esterhuizen (Blue Bulls to Cardiff)
Conrad Stoltz (Mpumulanga Pumas to Stade Francais)
Roland Reid (Golden Lions to Glasgow Caledonians)
Duncan McRae (NSW Waratahs to Saracens)
Geoff Appleford (Natal Sharks to London Irish)
Russell Nelson (Boland to Ulster)
John Welborn (NSW Waratahs to Grenoble)
Dan Parks (Eastern Suburbs to Leeds Tykes)
Stuart Pinkerton (NSW Waratahs to Sale Sharks)
Andrew Heath (Queensland Reds to Beziers)
Warren Britz (Natal Sharks to Newcastle Falcons)
Rayno Gerber (Cheetahs to LeedsTykes)
Carlo Del Fava (Natal Sharks to Overmach Parma)
Pat Barnard (Western Province to Northampton Saints)
Kees Lensing (Blue Bulls to Leeds Tykes)
Roland de Marigny (NW Leopards to Leeds)
Greg Goosen (Natal Sharks to Racing Metro)
Michael Coetzee (Border Bulldogs to Racing Metro)
Sam Gerber (Mpumulanga Pumas to Bayonne)
Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls to Toulon)
Wessel Roux (Blue Bulls to Toulon)
Cliff Milton (Blue Bulls to Stade Francais)
Gerhard Vosloo (Lions to Castres)
Danie Thiart (Blue Bulls to Montpellier)
Johan Wasserman (Blue Bulls to Montpellier)
Ronnie Cooke (Griqualand West to Brive)
Bertus Swanepoel (Falcons to Toulouse)
Heyneke Meyer (Blue Bulls to Leicester Tigers)
Matt O’Connor (ACT Brumbies to Leicester Tigers)
Derick Hougaard (Blue Bulls to Leicester Tigers)
Juandre Kruger (Blue Bulls to Northampton Saints)
Scott Mathie (Natal Sharks to Leeds Carnegie)
BJ Botha (Natal Sharks to Ulster)
Robbie Diack (Western Province to Ulster)
Tiaan Liebenberg (Western Province to Toulon)
Noel Oelschig (Cheetahs to Stade Francais)
Coenie Basson (Boland to Bourgoin)
Rayno Gerber (Blue Bulls to Stade Francais)
Piet van Zyl (Cheetahs to Bourgoin)
Luke Watson (Western Province to Bath)
Brian Mujati (Western Province to Northampton Saints).
Sireli Naqelevuki (Western Province to Exeter)
Hendro Scholtz (Free State Cheetahs to Agen)
Dewald Senekal (Toulon to Agen)
Julian Salvi (Brumbies to Leicester)
Greg Goosen (La Rochelle to Newcastle Falcons)
Steven Sykes (Natal Sharks to Leinster)
Naas Olivier (Griqualand West to Aironi)
Corne Uys (Cheetahs to Newcastle Falcons)
Tonderai Chavhanga (Lions to Gwent Dragons)
Adriaan Fondse (Western Province to Newcastle Falcons)
Jacques-Louis Potgieter (Sharks to Bayonne)
Henry Vanderglas (Brumbies to Bristol)
Gary Gold (South Africa to Newcastle Falcons)
Josh Strauss (Lions to Glasgow)
WP Nel (Cheetahs to Edinburgh)