KSA Shark ©

“it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy”

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Springboks on 15 Aug 2010 at 08:00
Tagged with : , ,

In the week leading up to his 50th Test cap a few years ago, John Smit wrote former Springbok coach Jake White a thank-you letter.

“He said I always gave the players a letter when they reached milestones, so he thought he’d write me one because he never thought he’d make it that far,” remembered White this week.

Simnikiwe Xabanisa writes in the Sunday Times that the Springbok captain is now a hundredth team announcement away from becoming only the second Bok – the first forward – to amass a ton of Tests in Saturday’s Tri-Nations game against New Zealand.

White was a touch incredulous when he said the milestone, and the numerous records set en route to it, “couldn’t happen to a nicer and more deserving guy”. This is probably because the World Cup-winning coach advised the hooker to call it a day after leading the Boks to that victory in 2007.

But he should have known better, because Smit doesn’t do comfort zones very well, as his acceptance of the most thankless captaincy job doing the rounds in rugby six years ago has shown.

In that time, the 32-year-old has won the Currie Cup, the British & Irish Lions series, two Tri-Nations, and the World Cup as captain.

Along the way, he has become the most capped Springbok hooker, the most capped Bok forward, and the most experienced international captain in history.

Not bad for a guy who spent practically his entire career being told there were better players than him out there despite more than 200 first-class outings suggesting otherwise.

Yet on the eve of the Boks’ massive team man’s greatest individual achievement, there are those begrudging him his moment by insisting his less-than-brilliant form currently means the selection would be sentimental.

Besides that not necessarily being true, it would also be missing the point.

This cap is South African rugby’s thank you to its greatest servant.

When Smit took over the Bok captaincy, against Ireland in Bloem in 2004, South African rugby was a Kamp Staaldraad joke.

During his “ambassadorship” Smit has coaxed the Springboks to a position where their ability to play has instilled fear on the field again, not to mention mended fences with the rest of the rugby world after a period in which they were branded thugs.

It’s something White and Smit’s fellow Springbok legends Os du Randt, Percy Montgomery, who beat Smit to 100 caps, and Victor Matfield understand too well.

In recounting how his relationship with Smit developed this week, Du Randt could have been speaking for the average South African: “I first met him in 2004 when I started playing with him. At first I thought he wasn’t that special but after I got to know him I’ve changed my mind.

“He has become a special player and person in my book. I’m older than him but in the team I considered him a mentor because he was one of those guys you could talk to about any of your problems and you would know he wouldn’t tell anyone else.”

While Smit may have slow-poisoned his way to the public’s affection, White said having seen him play for the first time in Grade 10, he knew it was only a matter before he would play for the Springboks.

Matfield was similarly impressed by a “red-headed loosehead who could carry the ball well” at a rugby week at Pretoria Boys High.

For all that inexplicable ability to divide opinions (after all, Montgomery describes him as Barney, the friendly Dinosaur), Smit did not build his reputation on impressions, he did it by leading men.

Five years ago he said: “I like to be a guy who influences things rather than one who is influenced.”

And isn’t he just.

Matfield openly admitted that he had borrowed something of Smit’s leadership style.

“When he became captain he empowered guys like Os, myself, Percy, Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers and so on,” said Matfield. “It’s one thing to empower those around you, but can you trust them to do what they’re supposed to do?

“He did, and that’s something I took to the Bulls with me because when I started out Joost van der Westhuizen was the captain and it was his way or the highway.”

White said Smit’s calling card as a captain was an ability to say the right thing at the right time.

“He had a go at me at the one practice at the World Cup because I kept making them do the same drill and we wiped out CJ van der Linde doing it,” said White. “He said: ‘Why are you trying to coach us in two weeks what you haven’t in four years?’”

Du Randt remembered another incident at a Test match in which the Boks weren’t looking particularly flash: “He’s not a guy who shouts on the field but this time he called us behind the posts and kakked on us.

“But then the great thing was that he also told us what to do next. It’s easy to shout, but can you give the guys a plan for the rest of the game?”

Matfield said that what made captaining against Smit difficult was the fact that “it is imposing to stand before all that achievement at the coin toss before a game, you want to show that you can do the same”.

Despite the many doubts on his ability as a player, few useless front-rowers have scrummed down in all three of the front-row positions at international level.

As Matfield said: “As a lock you get all the accolades at the lineout, but for six years I’ve had him throwing it spot-on.”

Montgomery railed against the criticism aimed at Smit at the moment: “Personally I think it’s all bullshit, but it’s all part of the game. Being criticised brings out a person’s true character.”

In that case, Smit should be in his element going into his umpteenth Test – out of his comfort zone.


  • Not an easy job being a coach in his country. But even harder being the captain. Well done Smitty. A true leader of men.

  • Comment 1, posted at 15.08.10 08:12:13 by rugbypedia Reply
    rugbypediaUnder 21 player
  • Good article.. Thanx KSA.. I really enjoyed it..

  • Comment 2, posted at 15.08.10 08:14:04 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard FergusonCoach
  • Thanks for posting this KSA! Smit is a legend!! :)

  • Comment 3, posted at 15.08.10 08:23:37 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • You go Barney!! :smile:

  • Comment 4, posted at 15.08.10 08:42:54 by Jarson Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition WinnerCompetition Winner
    JarsonXAssistant coach
  • Umm. Not to rain on this happy parade, but shouldn’t we rather celebrate Smit’s 100th cap after he’s actually won it? Last time I checked the team hasn’t been named yet and if we’re brutally honest, on form, John shouldn’t be anywhere near it.

    Sideshows like this lose matches. Just waiting for the pics of all the players wearing ginger wigs…

  • Comment 5, posted at 15.08.10 09:36:57 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • Vic’s memory isn’t very good either. John was a tighthead at school

  • Comment 6, posted at 15.08.10 09:39:38 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • captain Plod is fat, unconditioned and way of the pace! He is a liability to the Boks at the moment, our opponents smile everytime he rolls his lard-laden body onto the field. Plus his lineout throws have gone to pot lately!

    He is not getting his 100th cap on merit!

  • Comment 7, posted at 15.08.10 10:02:49 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • Slow your roll Rob, a journo decided to ride an anticipatory article about Smit: that barely qualifies as a sideshow, nor does it mean that the Bok team is out there making mugs and t-shirts with his name.

    Megatron, the interesting things about opinions is that say more about the holder than the subject. The way you expressed yours about a great servant of SA rugby confirms that you are a wanker who will never have people speak of you in the same way they speak of him.

  • Comment 8, posted at 15.08.10 10:21:53 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Megatron (Comment 7) : urm I could say a lot of things here but it being a beautifull sunday morning in Fairest Cape Town I`ll keep quiet. :cool:

    Suffice to say John Smit is the best captain SA have ever had.

  • Comment 9, posted at 15.08.10 11:16:56 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original PierreSuper Rugby player
  • @Big Fish (Comment 8) : yes, a wanker that is in his position in life & work on merit! I certainly don’t need fawning sycophants cheering me on even when i’m not qualified to play for the springboks. The jersey & the team are bigger than john smit. He is not in the team on merit and merit alone should be the criteria for selection.

    I have no time sentimental bullsh*t.

  • Comment 10, posted at 15.08.10 11:27:09 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • So you`re suggesting Chilliboy should start for the bokke?

  • Comment 11, posted at 15.08.10 11:51:22 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original PierreSuper Rugby player
  • A true Bok great.

    Take a bow Mr Smit we applaud you.

    Now if only you could do something about 3rd world debt & global warming. ;-)

  • Comment 12, posted at 15.08.10 11:58:45 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 11) : anyone BUT john smit. We all know what happened when de villiers ‘gifted’ percy his 100th cap, we got moered 19-0 @ newlands in a game where percy was [email protected]

    But you know what, the 100th cap was more important that winning the Test.

  • Comment 13, posted at 15.08.10 12:00:50 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • I hate to agree with Megatron, but John needs to raise his game significantly. Particularly on defence. He’s lucky Bismarck has been pants the last two weeks

  • Comment 14, posted at 15.08.10 12:15:09 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @McLovin (Comment 12) :
    Good to see you again! Where have you been?

  • Comment 15, posted at 15.08.10 13:22:03 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • I don’t believe Francois Pienaar was the best in his position in the RWC 95 but he captained the boks to the trophy.

    John may not be the best in his position, but his leadership is critical.

    Why did the sharks lose the S14 in 2007 when they were the better side?

    John Smit was on the bench, having been replaced.

    Don’t always judge a player for what he can do, but what others can do in his absence.

    SA won the RWC in 2007 thanks to John’s calm leadership.

    Don’t ever underestimate that. The same as Nelson Mandela probably wasn’t the best president in the world, but he is probably the world’s greatest statesman and icon.

    Sadly, Megratoll doesn’t see the bigger picture. What would you expect from someone like him?

  • Comment 16, posted at 15.08.10 13:55:16 by Baldrick Reply

    BaldrickCurrie Cup player
  • @Baldrick (Comment 16) : 2007 was a long time ago now…

  • Comment 17, posted at 15.08.10 14:01:01 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • All I can say is that we all would hope to have these kinds of things said about us at a significant milestone in our careers. What is important is how the people closest to him think of him, not us fans and journos, as a leader, the respect of the people one leads is paramount, not the respect of an “adoring” public. Sorry, I have never heard a team mate of John Smit ever question his ability on the field, so sorry Rob and Megatron, your opinions regarding whether Smit should be playing is not nearly as important as his team mate’s opinions, and they all seem to want him to play. John, clearly you see through all the BS, so stay strong, a great leader of men.

  • Comment 18, posted at 15.08.10 14:06:16 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing BearTeam captain
  • I remember John having a rather poor 2006 season and it was said that Gary Botha was SA’s best hooker. We all know how that ended… :roll:

  • Comment 19, posted at 15.08.10 14:10:55 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 18) :
    Amen brother.

  • Comment 20, posted at 15.08.10 14:11:27 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Baldrick (Comment 16) : you know nothing about me to be assuming what kind of person i am!

    I for one will not be held to ransom by useless sentimental nonsense about how a team with Matfield – a 3-time s14 winning captain, Juan Smith, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger (all captains of their respective franchises) cannot win a Test match if john smit is not there.

    Well in fact we won our first game at Carisbrook in decades WITHOUT john smit! Keep believing all this bullsh*t about john’s ‘leadership’ being critical to the springboks when the sharks only have a currie cup to show, which by the way they won – you guessed it – without smit!

  • Comment 21, posted at 15.08.10 17:03:42 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • @Big Fish (Comment 15) : Around. ;-)

  • Comment 22, posted at 15.08.10 17:06:03 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 8) : The way you expressed yours about a great servant of SA rugby confirms that you are a wanker

  • Comment 23, posted at 15.08.10 17:26:39 by klempie Reply

    klempieTeam captain
  • @Megatron (Comment 21) : you know nothing about me to be assuming what kind of person i am!

    Trolls are attention seekers. Finish en klaar :twisted:

  • Comment 24, posted at 15.08.10 17:30:25 by klempie Reply

    klempieTeam captain
  • @klempie (Comment 24) : call it trolling or whatever you like. I just express my own opinions, they might different from yours but i’m free to express them on this blog thanks to robdylan :D

  • Comment 25, posted at 15.08.10 17:37:35 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • @Megatron (Comment 25) : Exactly. And likewise I’m free to express my opinion on you being a troll on this blog thanks to robdylan. In fact, he encourages it. :grin:

  • Comment 26, posted at 15.08.10 17:41:12 by klempie Reply

    klempieTeam captain
  • @klempie (Comment 26) : troll, smcholl whatever…

  • Comment 27, posted at 15.08.10 17:53:42 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • Klemps!!
    YOU of all people calling someone a troll… BWAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Comment 28, posted at 15.08.10 18:13:42 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @Megatron (Comment 21) : True, I don’t. But I can read into your personality by the drivel you talk and the assumptions you make about other people when you have no way of possibly actually having an inkling.

    As Dancing Bear correctly pointed out, it’s the people who play alongside him who are the judges of his character.

    I doubt he’d ever have a sleepless night reading what kak you have to say about him.

    Your complete lack of respect shows your moral character.

    Finis en klaar!

  • Comment 29, posted at 15.08.10 18:25:03 by Baldrick Reply

    BaldrickCurrie Cup player
  • @Baldrick (Comment 29) : smit is a rugby player, not mahatma gandhi or mother theresa! He is just a bloody fat, uncondintioned rugby player! Now if you want to make him a demi-god that’s you issue and betrays the kind of personality you are. I’m not here to make judgement call on your character though.

    I can only express myself on what i see on the rugby field, if you can’t stomach that then fine!

  • Comment 30, posted at 15.08.10 18:36:04 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • @wpw (Comment 28) : :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:

  • Comment 31, posted at 15.08.10 19:33:23 by klempie Reply

    klempieTeam captain
  • Ive been on the fence about smit for a while. I listened to all the praises and criticism. I am a fan of smit and hope he captains the boks in the world cup. Apart from his great leadership i have also noticed how he affects the game. When he comes off the field the boks seem to fall apart… He is remarkable!

  • Comment 32, posted at 15.08.10 20:56:02 by Rahul Reply

    RahulCurrie Cup player
  • @Big Fish (Comment 8) : fish man i thought you said the other day its wrong to call Megatwat names on this site no matter how apt they may be,what happened?

  • Comment 33, posted at 15.08.10 20:57:05 by ruggabugga Reply

    ruggabuggaVodacom Cup player
  • @Megatron (Comment 30) : Meg man i think you wrong dude just go to rugga stats and see his milage etc!!

  • Comment 34, posted at 15.08.10 20:59:08 by ruggabugga Reply

    ruggabuggaVodacom Cup player
  • @ruggabugga (Comment 34) : yes, running BEHIND play can also be considered mileage!

  • Comment 35, posted at 16.08.10 07:55:24 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
  • Congrats John Smit(provided you play) you’ve been great for SA Rugby…..but in my opinion a player should bow out of the game at a high so that your fans can remember you when you were close to your best and I’m worried that if you continue too long that you will do your reputation harm. You either need to up your game or start handing over the reins to a younger person. Enjoy your 100th and I hope it’s a great occasion for the Boks and their fans.

  • Comment 36, posted at 16.08.10 08:30:39 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
    Assistant coach
  • Indeed, congrats John Smit for all you’ve achived in your 99 caps todate!!!

    I think many forget we’re celebrating the 99 or so caps he has played thus far, in a “Captain’s-career” spanning at least 6 years, not necessarily his form at this exact moment in time. Don’t be so short sighted to trash a man’s entire career because of a few games at the later end of that career!

  • Comment 37, posted at 16.08.10 09:01:43 by CS Reply

    CSCurrie Cup player
  • @Megatron (Comment 35) : megman someone unfit and overweight could never do that ,get some substance man!!

  • Comment 38, posted at 16.08.10 19:51:24 by ruggabugga Reply

    ruggabuggaVodacom Cup player

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