John Smit still hungry, and in top form, says Sharks coach

2011-01-18 00:00

HEAD coach John Plumtree has confirmed that Springbok captain John Smit and centre Stefan Terblanche will lead the Sharks in the lengthy Super Rugby tournament this year.

The Sharks are at a week’s training camp in Rustenburg but Plumtree has been quick to answer Smit’s critics by naming the Springbok front-rower as his captain for 2011. Veteran Terblanche, who led the team to the Currie Cup title last year, will act as Smit’s deputy.

Smit, who is determined to lead the Boks to the World Cup again this year, faces a busy season and Plumtree said the 32-year-old would be carefully managed.

“John can’t play every game, he can’t finish every game and he won’t start every game. Stefan obviously proved himself as a leader and has the respect of the players. The role he has to play is really important.”

The new Super Rugby competition now spreads over six months with teams playing at least 16 games and the Sharks coach said he would be flexible in using the versatile Smit during the extended season.

“He’s going to play in every position in the front row, and I’m more than happy with that because I know he’s going to be fit. There is no more experienced front-rower in world rugby. He knows the ins and outs of each position in the front row. The key thing for him is that he’s going to be fit.”

Plumtree was critical of the way Smit has been treated by the Springboks.

“He was moved from hooker to tighthead prop ahead of the 2009 British Lions tour and was poorly advised to put on weight.”

The injury to hooker Bismarck du Plessis resulted in Smit then having to move back to hooker and he was then criticised for being overweight.

“That advice (to add bulk) did not come from us but I can assure you that he is now fit, trim and determined.

“A player’s longevity is often determined later in their career by family commitments or a lack of drive and John’s still showing us that he wants to be here.”

Plumtree said that the Springbok selectors would be watching to see how Smit was being used by the Sharks.

“It’s a talking point and I guess the Boks are looking forward to seeing what I do with him because that will give them an idea of what they should do.

“This is John’s last season, and he’s used to being captain. It is a role that suits him, he’s a bloody good leader. He has the respect of other teams and the referees which is important in a competition like this.”

Plumtree responded angrily to a report in The Witness early last week in which Jake White, South Africa’s 2007 World Cup-winning coach, advised Smit to quit the game.

“It annoys me when a player gives so much for his country and yet picks up so much criticism from his countrymen. It is a serious lack of respect, the tall poppy syndrome when people try and cut down an achiever.

“John is a great player and he will know when it is time to retire,” said Plumtree.

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