Springboks: After a two-year long battle, Juan Smith calls it a day

2013-02-12 00:00

JUAN Smith’s two-year battle to overcome injury has finally ended and the 31-year-old Springbok and Free State flank yesterday quit rugby.

Smith, a rangy, hard-working and world-class loose forward, has been plagued by an Achilles’ tendon injury since February 2011 and on four occasions underwent surgery to repair the damage.

After months of hard work he was confident of finally returning to Super Rugby action this year and he ended a two-year break from rugby when he turned out for half-an-hour in the pre-season friendly against the Stormers at the start of the month.

He again showed encouraging touches when he played against the Bulls in Polokwane at the weekend and he was expected to be in the Cheetahs’ starting line-up against the Sharks in the Super Rugby opener in Bloemfontein on February 23.

But yesterday, still troubled by the injury and following a MRI scan, he decided to quit the game.

“Were it not for the fans and my family, then I probably would have made the decision to retire much earlier,” he said in Bloemfontein last night.

“It was the fans who gave me the courage to attempt to make a comeback to the rugby field this year after several operations.

“I appreciate all the support I received through the years from my family, Springbok and especially Free State supporters.”

Smith said he would take a short holiday before deciding on his future and on whether he will serve rugby in another capacity.

Smith made his provincial debut for Free State in 2002, making his debut for the Springboks as a 21-year-old just a year later.

He made 69 Test appearances and played a pivotal role in the Springboks’ triumph at the 2007 World Cup in Paris.

Strong and brave, he was a no-nonsense player, a strong defender and — at 1,96 metres tall and 114 kg — he was a valuable jumper at the tail of the lineout.

His decision to leave the game is a major blow for the Cheetahs — and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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