John Smit ends his glittering career in style

2012-06-23 00:00

THERE were blood, sweat and cheers as former Springbok and Sharks captain John “Barney” Smit ended his glittering 15-year career back where it started at King’s Park last night.

The Sharks finally came away with a 47-21 win and Smit, leading his World XV, was given a rousing farewell by a large crowd and his fellow-players.

The game ended in smiles, and a manufactured try and conversion for Barney’s Army gifted by referee Mark Lawrence after the final hooter, but there were also moments of big tackles, wholehearted effort, visits to the blood-bin and even two yellow cards.

The Sharks were disjointed to start and Barney’s side had the better of possession and territory in the first half. Former Shark Brent Russell delighted the crowd when he side-stepped his way through the home team’s defence.

But an individual chip-and-chase try by Odwa Ndungane and two others by centre Tim Whitehead on the end of overlaps — with Meyer Bosman converting both from the touchline — gave the Sharks a 19-7 half-time lead.

The Sharks were in trouble midway through the second half when centre Meyer Bosman was yellow-carded for a tip tackle on Rory Kockott and a minute later Louis Ludik conceded a penalty try and was also sent to the sin-bin, for knocking down a World XV pass.

But with players coming and mostly going, and Barney’s rusty team running out of puff, the Sharks stretched away in the closing quarter to run in five tries.

There was plenty to amuse and bemuse. Victor Matfield played for 75 minutes, Smit revealed several deft handling touches and landed a tricky conversion from straight in front, while Russell showed he can still test defences.

Craig Burden, Ndungane and Whitehead enjoyed themselves for the Sharks, but coach John Plumtree would not have been entirely happy with the evening’s display as his forwards often struggled in the set pieces against a pick-up team while they were ragged in controlling possession.

But this contest was not about individual form or the final score, but a celebration of Smit’s remarkable career . And the players and crowd certainly contributed to that.

“Seeing the crowd and their response in helping my charities has been the most humbling experience,” Smit remarked later.

It was a win-win evening.

SCORERS

Sharks: 47 (19) — Tries: Odwa Ndungane, Tim Whitehead (2), Craig Burden, Chris Cloete, Cobus Reinach, Rosko Specman. Conversions: Meyer Bosman (2), Riaan Viljoen (4)

World XV: 21 (7) — Tries: Brent Russell, Penalty Try, Rob Linde. Conversions: Percy Montgomery (1), John Smit (2)

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