Smit has to remove Div’s foot, again

2011-09-05 00:00

IT was a weekend of extravagant World Cup claims, with South African captain John Smit described as both the best hooker in the world and the most handsome, while the Springboks “do not play any rugby”.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers (who else?) told the international media in Wellington that there is no selection problem in having to choose between Smit and Bismarck du Plessis at hooker. “John is the best hooker in world rugby at the moment so we will be very sensible when we make selections,” De Villiers said.

Smit, alongside his coach and not for the first time having to douse fires started by his coach, immediately provided the voice of tact and reason.

“When I hear the coach talking like that it reminds me of my wife. She thinks I’m the most handsome guy in the world,” he said.

Smit said he would prefer to be selected at hooker, but would play wherever he was selected for the team.

For De Villiers to claim that Smit is a better hooker than the dynamic Du Plessis is demonstrably foolish.

The Bok coach, if he is was determined to justify the omission of Du Plessis, should rather have said that he wanted Smit to start against Wales on Sunday because of his composed captaincy, his superior lineout throwing or his solid scrummaging.

Bald statements that Smit is a superior hooker to the dynamic Du Plessis might placate international writers, but they will not fool the South African rugby public.

Welsh coach Warren Gatland was the next one to pop up and said his team knows exactly what to expect from the Springboks, who “don’t play any rugby, nothing at all”.

Gatland is clearly hoping to unsettle the Springboks and change their approach.

“They’re very good at what they do in terms of set piece and they put the ball up in the air, use the power runners effectively and they’re a strong defensive side.

“We pretty much know what they’re going to do. Morné Steyn kicks penalties and drop goals and they will play to their strengths because that’s what they’re good at doing. We think we can match them physically and that’s the key to it.”

Johann Muller, the experienced lock who has captained the Springboks, yesterday responded to Gatland’s provocative statement.

Muller said the Springboks will not fight their battles through the media and will do their talking on the field of play.

“Every guy is entitled to his opinion and we don’t share that view,” Muller said of Gatland.

“We know what is coming and we know the Welsh are a really good side and they have had a great build-up to this World Cup with a couple of good wins.

“From our point of view, the only thing we worry about is that we can be as well prepared as we can for Sunday. Whatever his view is, that’s up to him.”

Muller said the All Blacks and Australia, on the evidence of the Tri-Nations, will be the favourites.

“But this is going to be an unbelievable World Cup. There are probably five or six sides in this World Cup that can win it. We saw in 2003 and 2007 that nothing that happens before the World Cup actually matters.”

But for the moment the Welsh players will not be thanking their coach for providing the Springboks with additional motivation for Sunday’s opener (10.30 am) in Wellington.

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