Smit still vital for the Sharks

2008-10-17 00:00

A YEAR ago, almost to the day, John Smit was holding up “Bill”, the William Webb Ellis Cup, as captain of the World Cup-winning Springboks; next Saturday, he will watch from the reserve bench when the Sharks take on the Blue Bulls in the final of the Currie Cup.

Smit has played in three games — twice coming off the bench — since his return from an extended injury break, but he knows he will not start in the final.

Head Sharks coach John Plumtree will only announce his starting line-up for the final in the middle of next week, but he is not about to start meddling with a winning combination now and Bismarck du Plessis, fit, fiery and in form, will be at hooker with Johann Muller retaining the captaincy.

Not that Smit has only a bit part to play over the next week. One of the most respected captains in world rugby, his experience and common sense will be invaluable in the tense, highly-charged build-up to the final.

He is also expected to play a major role coming off the bench in the second half of what will be the most physical of finals, when the strength of his scrummaging and his composure — which was missing in the frenetic closing moments of last year’s Super 14 final — could prove significant.

The team chooses itself, and will be unchanged from the semi-final, but Plumtree does have a powerful bench if there are any late fitness problems.

The Sharks have trained as usual all week, while the Bulls took a long weekend, breaking up on Wednesday.

Plumtree told the Weekend Witness yesterday that preparations went very well.

“We had a practice game against the Sharks U19 [they play in the final against WP next Saturday] and that was beneficial to both teams.

“We have no injury concerns and now it’s just a case of ticking off all the boxes as we wrap up preparations.”

The New Zealander said that the next week would be training as usual, “but with a lighter load”.

The emphasis, he added, will be on being as relaxed and focused as possible in the build-up to the game — and steering clear of any stray pieces of soap.

Kick-off next Saturday is 4.30 pm.

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