Smit: Boks got some match hardness now, so Saturday will be a different

2011-08-15 00:00

JOHN Smit has been playing his rugby at King’s Park for 14 years, but he will remember his last appearance at his old home ground for all the wrong reasons.

The 33-year-old Smit will be joining Saracens after the Rugby World Cup and he was making his last appearance in Durban on Saturday when he led the Springboks against the Wallabies.

It started well enough with the Boks, and an involved Smit, playing solidly to establish a 6-0 half-time lead. But it all ended in tears as Smit was switched to tighthead — where he has never been happy — and then left the field with an injured arm in the closing minutes as the Bok scrum folded and the Wallabies won 14-9.

“I figured out a while back there are no fairytales,” said Smit. “But it’s been good to me, King’s Park, for 14 years. Certainly I’ve been blessed to play for that long.

“It was not the finish here I would have liked, but that’s not really the focal point; there are bigger fish to fry later [at the Rugby World Cup].”

Smit played down the injury and said it was stretched muscle “and nothing Elastoplast can’t fix.”

Smit said the Boks lost because they failed to convert their first-half chances and lacked ruthlessness on attack.

“It was a horrible Test to lose because we felt we had a reasonable amount of control. We had sufficient turnover produced by reasonably good defence for a change, but we didn’t use those turnovers as well as we could have.”

Most of the players have been out for six to eight weeks, while Fourie du Preez and Heinrich Brüssow have not played Test rugby in years.

“I was concerned going into half time just 6-0 up after the kind of rugby we played — knowing full well that majority of the guys probably weren’t going to be firing come 70 minutes.

“What is a big positive is that some guys got through this week, they got some match hardness and fitness and on Saturday it will be a different ball game.”

Smit said that he did not want to make statements about the team being judged on the World Cup.

“We need to start playing some rugby before and make sure we improve against the All Blacks on Saturday.”

Coach Peter de Villiers agreed that the Boks had controlled the game in the first half, but had failed to capitalise on three clear chances to score tries.

“That in itself is good and bad. Good that we created chances and could control the game like that considering the some of the guys hadn’t played any rugby for so long.

“But then, on the other side, you expect the guys to convert opportunities into points, which we didn’t do.”

“We were perhaps over-eager after not playing for so many weeks.”

Australia coach Robbie Deans praised the resilience of his team in the second half.

“We played against the most experienced Bok side tonight on their home soil, essentially their current World Cup selection.”

He said aggressive defence had been the decisive factor.

“Against these blokes (Springboks) you can’t duck. You have to front up physically and we deserved the result,” he said.

Deans refused to write off the Springboks and said they would challenge for the World Cup.

“They will be much better for this outing and they will be a World Cup threat, absolutely.”

Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper agreed that a “massive defensive effort” had won the Test.

“We knew that they were going to come out firing. Look at the guys they recalled.

“They are all very passionate and any time you come and play South Africa at home, they’re always going to come out with a hiss and a roar.

“They threw everything at us and credit to the boys for not letting them cross our line. That defensive effort really set the tone.”

There were positives for the Boks, but coach De Villiers was stretching the point when he said “we lost the game on the scoreboard only.”

Unfortunately, as many thousands of sodden, grumpy King’s Park spectators would have told De Villiers on Saturday night, that is the only place where it counts.

And a subdued John Smit looked for all the world like a beaten captain.

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