It seems Stephen Nell, from die Burger, was a little quick on the draw this morning.
Jan de Koning from Rugby365 reports talk of World Cup-winning Springbok skipper John Smit returning to South Africa in the near future may be premature.
South African newspaper reports on Thursday suggested that Smit was ready to turn his back on his French club, Clermont Auvergne, and would return to South Africa as soon as Monday.
However, both Clermont and SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd (the commercial arm of the South African Rugby Union – SARU) have denied that there were any plans in the offing to secure an early release from Smit’s contract.
The incumbent Bok captain and hooker – who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, and unlikely to play for another three months – joined the club in the industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand after lifting the World Cup trophy in France last October.
It was suggested that Smit wanted to return to his native country to captain the Boks again this year.
New Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and Andy Marinos, General Manager of National Teams at SA Rugby, are currently in the northern hemisphere to meet the various club representatives that have South African players on their books.
However, Jean-Marc Lhermet, the manager of Clermont Auvergne, denied that any discussions – that would see Smit get an early release from his contract, which runs until 2009 – had taken place.
Lhermet and Marinos both confirmed that they had met “earlier this week” to discuss Smit, but discussions focused on him being released for international duty – not to terminate his contract with the club.
“Yes, we did meet with Peter de Villiers [Bok coach] and Andy Marinos [General Manager], but the discussions was of a general nature – looking at their needs for the June Tests and the Tri-Nations,” Lhermet told the French media on Thursday.
“But no proposal was made [to get him released from his contract]. John Smit will not leave during the season,” the Clermont manager added.
Marinos echoed Lhermet’s sentiments, confirming that the discussions focused only on Smit’s possible involvement with the Bok team from June onwards.
“We certainly did not make any requests to have him released from his contract,” Marinos told rugby365.com on Thursday, adding that their discussions with other European clubs would follow the same trend.
“We are waiting for the Super 14 to start [on Friday, February 15], so that Peter [de Villiers] can start forming an idea of what his Boks squad would look like. Then we’ll have a better idea of what players we might need from clubs abroad for the international season,” Marinos added.
Meanwhile, Rudolf Straeuli, the Sharks’ General Manager, also denied that the Sharks – Smit’s former team in South Africa – had entered into any negotiations with the French club.
“Yes, I have seen the reports and I know that if John [Smit] comes back to South Africa, he would want to be at the Sharks,” Straeuli told this website.
“But we are not involved in any negotiations to bring him back.
“Obviously he is a huge asset for any team, but to get him back now would require an enormous transfer fee and we [the Sharks] are certainly not going to get involved in talks with his [French] club. John knows where he stands with us and will always be welcome here,” Straeuli added.
With Smit contracted at Clermont Auvergne until 2009, it would require an enormous transfer fee to buy him out of his current deal and not the “three months of salary” that earlier reports suggested.Tweet