Smit to take on ‘Rhino’ challenge

2017-09-05 06:01
Photo: suppliedFormer Springbok hooker and captain John Smit (front) has thrown his name into the Rhino Peak Challenge hat and is looking for pledges towards the conservation of rhino and bearded vultures when the event gets under way on 22 September.

Photo: suppliedFormer Springbok hooker and captain John Smit (front) has thrown his name into the Rhino Peak Challenge hat and is looking for pledges towards the conservation of rhino and bearded vultures when the event gets under way on 22 September.

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THE 2007 Rugby World Cup winning captain John Smit has accepted the offer to take on the gruelling Rhino Peak Challenge on World Rhino Day, September 22 to help raise funds for the embattled rhino and bearded vulture populations in South Africa.

The former Springbok hooker is a strong advocate for the protection and maintenance of the rhino population in the country and he will be joining a number of professional athletes and people of influence for the 21km trek from Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens to the top of the Rhino Peak and back.

Smit, a dozen other people of influence and 12 elite athletes, will tackle the testing journey and taking on tough challenges in aid of conservation is something that Smit is familiar with.

“I did the uBhejani Xtreme last year, which was a crazy ride from Hillcrest to Umfolozi and someone there mentioned the Rhino Peak Challenge to me,” Smit said.

“Considering how serious the situation is getting with regards to rhino numbers and poaching it is almost impossible to say no to something that you know will go towards trying to make a difference.

“I sort of compare it to speaking to Nelson Mandela during the mid-nineties and him asking you to help the country, it’s really difficult to say no.”

Having played over 100 games for the Springboks, the Durban-based Smit is quick to point out that he understands the challenge that the event is going to pose for him.

“Look I am by no means a runner, or shall I say someone who can run uphill. 

“But if this is a way for me to try and grow awareness and knowledge about the plight of our rhinos then this is a worthwhile part for me to play.

“Whenever I can lend a hand in the rhino conservation fight then I do, I don’t have any specific programmes that I support.”

The Unogwaja Challenge is an event where riders cycle from Cape Town to Durban and then run the Comrades­ Marathon, a task that Smit understands is slightly out of his reach.

“I have got involved with Unogwaja and will be running the Cape Town Marathon in about three weeks’ time, which is the next challenge for me.

“The 42km is a push for a big guy like me, but I will always be available to help wherever I can.

“I just try and latch on to whoever needs help from a fund raising perspective and although I don’t really know what I am in for it is going to be an exciting event.”

Smit will join the rest of the invited field in securing pledges based on the time it takes him to complete the round trip on the day. 

One of the innovations introduced by the organisers Running Man Adventures encourages the invited participants to out up a unique prize as an added incentive for people who make a pledge to that particular participant.
Smit may even rummage through his rugby memorabilia to put up a prize that will boost his pledges.

For more information, visit www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za
- Supplied.

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