Smit to captain Boks again

2008-02-21 00:00

JOHN Smit is playing rugby in France but yesterday he was appointed Springbok captain.

New national coach Peter de Villiers announced in Cape Town yesterday that Smit, who captained South Africa to their Rugby World Cup triumph in October, will lead the Springboks into the new era.

“I was very impressed with John and have enormous respect for what he has achieved with the Springboks in the last four years,” said De Villiers. “He is the World Cup-winning captain. He has global respect and he has the desire to add to what was achieved in France last year.

“This is a new chapter for Springbok rugby, but I believe we must build on the success of the World Cup and it made sense to me to further invest in John’s excellent leadership and his ability as a player.”

Appointing Smit as captain was the easy part for De Villiers; securing his release from French club, Clermont Auvergne, may not be as simple.

De Villiers met twice with Smit before confirming his appointment yesterday, but the announcement nevertheless appears premature. Both coach and captain agreed the future is still decidedly hazy because of Smit’s French contract.

De Villiers said he appreciated there were complications in having his captain based in France.

“We will find the best possible solution in the coming weeks,” said De Villiers.

“It was important for me to officially confirm the situation, so as to ensure there is no misinformation based on speculation.”

Smit agrees that he should return home provided SA Rugby and his French club, Clermont Auvergne, can agree on terms and conditions.

“The Springboks will always be my priority, but it is important that any move back to South Africa is done in a professional and mature way,” said Smit, who added that a compromise agreement would have to be reached between SA Rugby and Clermont.

“The French have been fantastic to me and they understand my desire to play for the Springboks.”

Smit, who is only 29, was delighted to be part of De Villiers’ plans.

“When we met in Cape Town I was encouraged by the coach’s desire for success and his passion for South African rugby. To be offered the chance to continue with the Springboks is a challenge I would never refuse. I feel honoured to be given further opportunities to lead the Springboks,” said Smit.

Smit has been nursing a serious knee injury over the past six weeks and said his present focus was returning to full fitness and contributing to Clermont’s season.

De Villiers has spent the past fortnight in Europe where a number of senior Springboks are playing. He described the trip as “encouraging.”

“We must do what is best for Springbok rugby and my intention is to ensure the best available squad is selected. I will explore all avenues for this to happen.”

The news may not be that warmly received in Blue Bulls country. A couple of weeks ago they were expecting the Super 14-winning coach Heyneke Meyer to be named as Jake White’s successor with Victor Matfiield returning to Pretoria from his French club to take over the Springbok captaincy.

Plans often go awry in SA rugby.

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