John Smit will play on the hallowed Kings Park turf one last time this evening, as he leads his Barney’s Army Invitational XV onto the pitch that he has played on with distinction innumerable times over the last 15 years or so.
The match, though, will mark the return of more than one Sharks legend, with the side’s coach – Smit’s original gaffer and godfather of Sharks rugby, Ian McIntosh – perhaps the greatest one on show. Other returnees who have served the Sharks with distinction include number 8 Shaun Sowerby, flyhalf Butch James, wing Brent Russell and fullback Percy Montgomery, whilst the bench includes Stefan Terblanche and Rory Kockott.
Smit will be flanked by Argentine international Martin Scelzo and former Bok prop Faan Rautenbach, with Scotland’s Jason White joining another Bok captain, Vic Matfield, in the second row. Sowerby is at the back of the scrum, along with Super Rugby stalwarts on the flank in Julian Salvi (Brumbies) and Francois Louw (Stormers). Bath’s Mark McMillan is at scrumhalf with James outside him, while current Sharks centre Marius Joubert (who played with Smit at Clermont, as well as for the Boks) starts at 12. England’s Matt Banahan wears the number 13 jersey, with Saracens’ Maori winger Joe Maddock completing the back three with Russell and Monty.
Stormers stalwarts Pieter Dixon, Hottie Louws and Rob Linde are on the bench, along with Kockott, Terblanche and All Black Stephen Donald. As reported yesterday, Sharks Under 21 squad members Danie Mienie (prop) and Heimar Williams (centre) have been given the once in a lifetime opportunity to rub shoulders with real legends of the game in all shapes and sizes; both will play off the bench as well.
In a truly ground-breaking move, Smit will apparently be miked up during the match and will be able to interact with the commentators as the game progresses. Let’s hope that it’s not going to be live all the time, as I’m sure a few choice words will be uttered in the heat of battle, even despite the friendly nature of the game!
15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Brent Russell, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Marius Joubert, 11 Joe Maddock, 10 Butch James, 9 Mark McMillan, 8 Shaun Sowerby, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Julian Salvi, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jason White, 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Martin Scelzo
16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Rob Linde, 19 Hottie Louw, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Stefan Terblanche, 23 Heimar Williams