Coach confirms the expected

2011-05-03 00:00

TO the surprise of no one, national coach Peter de Villiers yesterday confirmed that John Smit will captain the Springboks to the Rugby World Cup later this year and former Test flank Rassie Erasmus will be joining the squad as a technical adviser.

The press conference called by De Villiers during the two-day Springbok training camp in Cape Town merely confirmed what everyone already knew — that Smit would remain as national captain for 2011 with Victor Matfield again his deputy. Erasmus and conditioning coach Derik Coetzee have been added to the management team.

The appointment of Smit will end the on-going speculation about the Bok captaincy — but not on who will be South Africa’s first-choice hooker at the World Cup in New Zealand.

Bismarck du Plessis is arguably the most respected hooker in world rugby and Sharks coach John Plumtree has used Smit as a roving front-rower, using him principally as a loosehead prop and as back-up at hooker. Certainly Smit’s versatility provides options, but yesterday De Villiers again insisted that he regards his captain as a hooker.

Erasmus was the Boks’ technical adviser at the 2007 RWC, but he did not travel to France as he had taken up a coaching post with Western Province.

“Rassie is passionate and detailed and he’s what we need. Derik Coetzee will deal with the measurables on the conditioning side, while Rassie will deal with the measurables on the coaching side,” De Villiers said.

Smit was enthusiastic about the management appointments.

“I know both of them pretty well, and I think they will inject some new energy and ideas. Doc Coetzee is the kind of guy that works you hard and has a real eye for detail. And then Rassie is a guy who can provide sublime input in terms of technical stats,” he said.

“Rassie played a big part in our preparation in 2007, and it was a shame he could not come along for the whole ride,” he added.

Smit — who led the Boks to the RWC title in 2007 — is the most capped Test captain (76 in 102 Tests) in history while Matfield is the most capped player (105 Tests).

“John and Victor have an unbelievable amount of experience and we’re fortunate to be able to have them,” De Villiers said.

“They are outstanding players in their positions and to have both still available in a Rugby World Cup year is a great boost for South African rugby. They are hugely respected in world rugby and have a massive influence on the teams in which they play,” he said.

“History has shown that teams that do well at Rugby World Cups have experience and outstanding leadership and we’ve learnt in the past that you throw away that experience at your peril,” he added.

Smit said the pressure on the Boks in New Zealand would be far more intense than it was in France.

“It was much easier last time when we had visions of grandeur and were hoping for the best. Now it’s about retaining the title, which will be a far greater challenge,” Smit said.

“I think that being criticised is all part of being a senior player. You are around for a while so all the attention is on you more often than not. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but it will be about hitting form and playing well when it counts,” he added.

He said the responsibility of leadership comes with “a great deal of pressure and expectation”.

“But it never loses the thrill or the sense of privilege that comes with it. I’m humbled by the faith the coach has placed in me and the duty to our country that comes with it.”

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