Sentimental Test awaits Smit

2010-06-24 00:00

EAST LONDON — On the surface it’s just another routine victory over Italy awaiting the Springboks this week, but the match has special significance for captain John Smit.

Smit made his debut here against Canada a decade ago and could be forgiven a sentimental moment at the announcement of the Bok team for Saturday’s second Test against Italy at the Buffalo City Stadium.

“The memories came back when I arrived here on Sunday. I was initiated downstairs at this hotel after my first Test in which I missed my first line-out throw. It feels like it was yesterday and it’s difficult to believe that it’s a decade later,” said Smit.

Nick Mallett, who now coaches Italy, handed Smit his Test debut as a substitute.

However, the captain did not realise that a victory on Saturday would be his 50th as Bok captain.

With Victor Matfield resting this week, Smit will also become the lone holder of the record of most Tests by a Springbok forward when he plays in his 96th Test this weekend.

However, that is not where his focus is this week. He watched the weekend’s 29-13 win from his couch due to a hamstring injury and hopes to head up a better team effort

“We can talk the whole week about what we want to achieve, but everything depends on how we train. Yesterday was good and today even better. Hopefully we can carry that attitude into Saturday’s Test,” said Smit.

How do you motivate a team for a clash against opponents that aren’t in your league?

“The key is not to look at it that way,” said the Bok skipper.

Tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis believes the team will benefit from Smit’s return. “John has perfected the art of motivating the team for big challenges. After Monday’s training session, he immediately told us what the problem was and what needs to be improved,” he said.

Smit replaces Chiliboy Ralepelle at hooker in one of seven changes to the side that beat the Azzurri in Witbank.

The Bok team:

Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Ricky Januarie, Pierre Spies, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, John Smit (captain), Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, BJ Botha, Danie Rossouw, Dewald Potgieter, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Wynand Olivier.

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