South Africa captain John Smit has downplayed the significance of his positional switch from hooker to tighthead prop for the international against Wales here on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that with prop CJ van der Linde overlooked for the three-Test tour since he plays for Irish province Leinster, and the Springbok squad including Bismarck du Plessis and Chiliboy Ralepelle as hookers, Smit finds himself lining up against Gethin Jenkins at the Millennium Stadium.
“With all that’s been said, read and written, I suppose it’s inevitable that the whole week has had little to do with rugby between two countries but more with me moving positions,” Smit said on Friday.
“Luckily enough, we’ve stuck with what works and what the team has to do on Saturday and that’s all that’s important for us.”
Asked whether he would be starting at prop or hooker come the first Test against the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in the summer, Smit was non-committal.
“I suppose that’s a question that will be answered in three weeks’ time” at the tour’s conclusion, he said with a smile.
One former player who was not impressed by Smit’s selection at prop was former South Africa-born Wales tighthead Peter Rogers.
Rogers won 18 caps for Wales, including their only Test success over the Springboks, a 29-19 win in the Millennium Stadium’s inaugural match in June 1999.
But he has also propped against Smit in their youth rugby days in South Africa.
“In 1994 I played against John when he was a tight-head and unless things have changed dramatically Gethin Jenkins has a real opportunity,” Rogers told BBC.
“John was part of the Natal development team and I was part of the Transvaal development team.
“I know for a fact he started his career as a tight-head prop and switched to hooker, so that says enough in itself.
“They’ve looked at him and he’s a big, powerful lad – he’s probably fantastic in the gym, fantastic on the track and well-conditioned.
“But to be a tight-head prop you need more than that.
“It’s an ideal opportunity to attack, with the scrum being used as a weapon these days they’ve got a fantastic opportunity to go for the South African pack.”
But Wales forward coach Robin McBryde, who won 37 caps as Welsh hooker, was also keen to play down the pressure Smit would be under.
“We’ll find out if he can scrummage, but tight-head is not too disimilar from hooker. He’s next to a very strong scrummaging hooker in Du Plessis and has a very experienced back five behind him.
“If he wasn’t confident, I’m sure he wouldn’t have agreed to play there.
“It’s obviously it’s something they’re working on to get him and Du Plessis into the team.”
Smit said the Wales game, which will be followed by back-to-back Tests against Scotland and England, was a “big challenge and certainly a massive start”.
Wales “have had a good season so far, winning the Six Nations. They’ve got lots of confidence, big belief in the coaching staff and camaraderie among the side, as well as having game breakers, including two nominated as IRB player of the year”.
But South Africa arrived as world champions, he said, and expectations of his side were “just reward for hard work”.Tweet