Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and captain John Smit agree that securing his release from the French club Clermont Auvergne where he is now playing may not be easy.
John Bishop of The Witness writes that announcing Smit’s appointment, De Villiers said he appreciated that there were complications in having his captain based in France.
De Villiers said: “We will find the best possible solution in the coming weeks.
“It was important for me to officially confirm the situation to ensure there is no misinformation based on speculation.”
Future hazy because of French contract
De Villiers met Smit twice before confirming his appointment, but the announcement nevertheless appeared premature.
Both coach and captain agreed the future was still decidedly hazy because of Smit’s French contract.
De Villiers announced in Cape Town on Wednesday that Smit, who captained South Africa to their Rugby World Cup triumph in October, would lead the Springboks into the new era.
“I was very impressed with John and have enormous respect for what he has achieved with the Springboks in the last four years,” said De Villiers. “He is the World Cup-winning captain. He has global respect and he has the desire to add to what was achieved in France last year.
“This is a new chapter for Springbok rugby, but I believe we must build on the success of the World Cup. It made sense to me to further invest in John’s excellent leadership and his ability as a player.”
‘French have been fantastic’
Speaking after his appointment, Smit said: “The Springboks will always be my priority, but it is important that any move back to South Africa is done in a professional and mature way,” adding that a compromise agreement would have to be reached between SA Rugby and Clermont.
“The French have been fantastic to me and they understand my desire to play for the Springboks.”
Smit, who is only 29, was delighted to be part of De Villiers’ plans. “”When we met in Cape Town I was encouraged by the coach’s desire for success and his passion for South African rugby. To be offered the chance to continue with the Springboks is a challenge I would never refuse.
Smit has been nursing a serious knee injury over the past six weeks and said his present focus was returning to full fitness and contributing to Clermont’s season.
Plans often go awry
De Villiers has spent the past fortnight in Europe where a number of senior Springboks are playing. He described the trip as “encouraging”.
The news may not be that warmly received in Blue Bulls country.
A couple of weeks ago they were expecting the Super 14 winning coach Heyneke Meyer to be named as Jake White’s successor with Victor Matfield returning to Pretoria from his French club to take over the Springbok captaincy.
Plans often go awry in South African rugby.Tweet