Springbok captain John Smit has indirectly blasted rugby’s hierarchy for allowing the law-makers to experiment with something that wasn’t in need of fixing.
He is one of only four players, all of them Springboks, who will experience the experimental law variations for the first time when he leads the world champions against New Zealand in the Tri-Nations opener at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Jacques Van Der Westhuyzen writes in the Cape Times that immediately upon Smit’s arrival in Wellington on Tuesday after a 28-hour flight from France where he had been involved in last weekend’s Top 14 final, Smit expressed his dissatisfaction with the ELVs which would be in force during the annual southern hemisphere competition.
Smit, Victor Matfield, Butch James and Percy Montgomery played the old laws in Europe in recent months while the rest of the South African and New Zealand players got to grips with the ELVs through the Super 14.
“They never tried to reinvent the wheel before, so why do it now,” he remarked about the introduction of the new laws. “There was nothing wrong with the old laws and you couldn’t find an empty seat in stadiums in France (while we played the old laws).”
While it will be a completely new experience for him on Saturday, he revealed that he was trying to learn as much as he could leading up to this weekend’s match. “I’ve seen them at work and I’ve even spoken to (fellow Springbok hookers) Bismarck (du Plessis) and Schalk Brits about them.
“I’ve got the textbook, I just haven’t written the test yet.”
The introduction of the ELVs into Test rugby are creating nearly as much comment in New Zealand as the Test itself.
All Black coach Graham Henry has also been outspoken, describing the likely influence of the extended ELVs as “an unknown factor”.
Turning his attention to the challenge presented by the All Blacks, Smit said he was looking forward to having two chances of beating them in their own country, something the Boks haven’t been able to do in 10 years.
He added that winning here would virtually ensure he could eventually step away from rugby knowing there was no “unfinished business”.
“I was desperate to get another chance to win in New Zealand. That’s why I so badly wanted to continue with the Boks after the World Cup. I’ve been here eight times before and never made it. We’ve come close on a number of occasions, but just missed out on victory. I don’t want to leave a box unticked,” he said.
Following this weekend’s match, the teams will move to Dunedin on the South Island for the second Test next weekend.
Besides having the goal of becoming the first Bok team since 1998 to win over here at the back of their collective minds, Smit added that, as the world champions, the Boks were desperate to hang on to their No 1 ranking in Test rugby. Should the All Blacks win on Saturday, they will again take over at the top.
“We’ve worked really hard to get ourselves into this position,” Smit responded when asked whether the visitors were in the right frame of mind and had the arsenal to finally achieve that elusive victory.
“It is up to us to keep the momentum going after winning in France last October. Staying at No 1 is what is driving us forward and we know that if we don’t do the business on Saturday, we’ll lose our tag.
“I can assure you that we are now as hungry for success as we were when we were chasing the No 1 ranking.”Tweet