Smit’s future still uncertain

2008-05-21 00:00

Springbok captain John Smit’s days as a French club player are drawing to an end, but quite where he will play his rugby over the next few season is less certain.

SA Rugby said in a statement yesterday that World Cup heroes John Smit, Percy Montgomery, Victor Matfield and Butch James will join the Springbok rugby training squad in Somerset West on Monday.

The 30-year-old Smit, already named as Springbok captain by new coach Peter de Villiers, will be available for selection for both Tests against Wales on June 7 and June 14. He will then return to France on June 15 to play for his club Clermont in their French Top 14 semi-final on June 21 and, should they advance, in the final on June 28.

SA Rugby said that Smit would then terminate his two-year contract with Clermont and return to South Africa.

Quite where the respected World Cup-winning captain will be based in South Africa remains unclear. Smit, who has family and a house in Durban, wants to return to the Sharks. However, the Durban-based franchise already have Bismarck du Plessis, who turns 24 today and is arguably the most dynamic young hooker in world rugby, under contract.

SA Rugby said yesterday that “a South African franchise for Smit is still being finalised.”

Both Brian van Zyl, the Sharks CEO, and commercial manager Rudolf Straeuli said yesterday that the question of contracts with player “would definitely not be discussed while we are still involved in the Super 14.”

“It is as simple as that,” said Van Zyl. “We don’t want to do or say anything that may disturb our players who are still involved in trying to win the Super 14.”

Straeuli did add that a Sunday newspaper report that Du Plessis has an escape clause in his contract in the event of Smit returning to the Sharks was inaccurate.

“Bismarck has a contract until the end of 2009 and that’s that. We will talk to all the players when the time is right, and not now when they are still busy with the Super 14.”

Springbok and former Sharks fullback Montgomery, currently with Perpignan, will also be back for the for the two home Tests against Wales but, like Smit, will return to France for the club play-offs when South Africa play Italy.

Clermont released a terse statement yesterday that Smit had been under contract with them until the end of next season, “but pressure had been put on him by SA Rugby to return to domestic rugby and he had reluctantly agreed.”

Montgomery’s future remains uncertain and there is no indication whether he will stay on in France or return to South Africa.

Matfield has again been contracted to the Bulls, while James’ commitments to Bath for the season ended with their weekend defeat by Wasps in the Guinness Premiership semi-finals.

In Cape Town, there has already been gleeful speculation that AJ Venter, Smit and Montgomery would be joining Western Province in the months ahead. Coach Rassie Erasmus, however, says he has not even spoken to the players named in several reports.

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