I know I really shouldn’t even rise to this sort of thing, but certain other websites are posting all sorts of rumours about John Smit being sent to the Lions at the behest of SARU, in order to be afforded game time at hooker.
Let’s just take a step back here and consider a number of facts. Fact number one is that John Smit is contracted in Durban until the end of 2010 and despite what Lions fans would have you believe, there are some unions in South Africa that actually DO lock their players into watertight contracts. So Smit is not a free agent and is not able to just saunter on over to join the Lions, even if he wanted to.
Whether he would want to is in itself debatable. Barney is a folk hero in Durban, having represented the Sharks ever since he left school. He has repeatedly been quoted to say that he wouldn’t consider playing for another SA team. Apart from anything else, his young family is settled in Durban, where he had numerous business interests away from rugby. His parents live on a farm somewhere up north anyway, so talk about him moving to Joburg to be closer to them smacks a little of clutching at non-existent straws.
The second fact is that SARU has no influence whatsoever when it comes to deciding who plays where. In an ideal world, perhaps, we might have a New Zealand-like system where the national body ensures an even distribution of talent between the five franchises, but the reality is that provincial unions in South Africa are under no obligation whatsoever to move players around at SARU’s behest. So any “demand” from SARU that Smit (or Bismarck du Plessis) be releases to the Lions will be met by Brian van Zyl’s middle finger. Of that there is no doubt.
The Sharks LIKE having options in the front row – that is why they have opted to contract so many top players. Losing Smit will mean they have no Super 14-tested options at either hooker or tighthead should the either of the du Plessis brothers break down. Having depth in your squad is a good thing and competition for places is what’s going to see the Sharks emerge as a stronger squad this year. The fact that the Lions are too sodding useless to find a hooker of their own is not a good reason to let them have one of ours.
The third fact is that the Bok brainstrust have not, as yet, decided that John Smit is going to move back to hooker. As I mentioned in my article yesterday, just because our scrum finally looked ok for a 20-minute period against Italy, the entire world seems to have jumped lock, stock and barrel onto a bandwagon and I feel they are doing so prematurely. Even if Smit starts at hooker against Ireland, there’s no guarantee that he won’t be moved back to tighthead again next year, once everyone else is fit and rested again.
A lot here will depend on de Villiers’ long-term plan for Smit, assuming he has actually got as far as deciding what it is! Should Smit end up back at hooker full-time for the Boks, then the Sharks would definitely have a conundrum on their plate, as the national captain should probably expect to start in his preferred position for his Super 14 franchise. As we know Bismarck does not like playing second-fiddle to anyone and should he insist on retaining the Sharks number 2 jersey, then the Sharks management would have no choice but to find some sort of compromise, perhaps involving one of the players leaving. It’s far too early to predict what might happen in that case, though.Tweet