Its surprising not to see more fanfare in the media, but given the nightmare Monty experienced and the Boks overseas tour its understandable not much mention has been made of the fact that John William Smit will become South Africas second centurion when he runs out against the old enemy on Saturday.
He was the 691 person asked to represent the Boks when he was selected against Canada in 2002. It was mere 30 odd tests into his career when Jake White asked him to lead the team after the 2003 fiasco that saw the Boks not only plummet to their worst ever ranking under the tutelage of Rudi Straeuli but also become the laughing stock of the world with his ill conceived training camp.
As Bok captains go its highly unlikely we will ever see another so successful nor one so composed in the face of the most rabid media and fans in the world – he is the most capped Bok captain (73), the most capped hooker (84) and also the most capped Bok forward ever.
But the numbers don’t really do the man justice. Aside from uniting a team racked by divisions, he has lead the Boks in arguably their most successful period ever including the Rugby World Cup, a couple of Tri-Nations and a B&I Lions series.
He has dealt with success and defeat with equal amounts of grace, blamed only himself and his players for non-performance. Accommodated silly theories that he isn’t the best hooker in the country, played in all three positions in the front-row – no mean feat in itself but more importantly he restored Bok pride when it was sorely needed.
Recently he has had to deal with a bunch of arm-chair critics (myself included) doubting his ability to lead, let alone warrant a starting place in the current team without so much as firing a broadside at the very people whose minds can change in a manner of minutes depending on the result.
When he finally decides to call it quits, remember the name – in 100 years from now he will be spoken of in awe as the legend that made the Boks great again.