Will Smith make the cut?

Juan Smith and Schalk Burger return to rugby after a long lay-off, but does Smith still have a role to play in Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s team? asks Khanyiso Tshwaku

The Springboks were very much short of experience in the loose forwards last year, with two debuts given to Stormers eighthman Duane Vermuelen and Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee.

What their performances demonstrated was excellent depth in key positions, with Francois Louw’s fetching skills completing what looked like a solid and competitive back row.

Much like New Zealand missed the unheralded but very effective Jerome Kaino, Juan Smith’s truancy left a gaping void.

Kieran Read’s understated leadership with a hard edge, mixed with a ranginess that made him an auxiliary back, more than made up for Kaino’s absence.

Replacing the omnipresent Smith was not easy.

His legendary cleaning-out abilities, let alone his presence at the back of the line-out, overlooked the fact the Springboks often go into test matches without a specialist fetcher.

The problem with Achilles tendon tears is that they put a lot of strain on the calf muscle and cause a reduction in pace.

Not that Smith was the fastest of loose forwards in the Pierre Spies mould, but as an excellent cover defender, he hardly ever allowed the man who broke through the advantage line to get past him.

This was a hallmark he shared with Australia’s Rocky Elsom, who cut down linebreakers with a cold-edged efficiency.

Their absences necessitated a shift in the back rows and with the Waratahs churning out a fresh batch of loosies plus the emergence of Liam Gill, Elsom is no longer in the reckoning.

Two years is a very long time in rugby and at 32, Smith will be hard-pressed to make Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer look his way.

Meyer always talks about having leaders in his team.

Smith and Schalk Burger are capable in their own right.

Meyer will have to make a distinction in picking players on reputation and merit. It will be the defining issue of his year.

Easing Meyer back into action will also have to be handled with kid gloves as a team like the Cheetahs are always two or three injuries away from a crisis.

There is no cushion of a comfortable last-place finish as a promotion/relegation date with the Lions is in store for the worst performing Super Rugby franchise.

Southern Kings

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
As a child or as an adult, have you ever been a victim of bullying?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, at school
53% - 1014 votes
Yes, at work
17% - 329 votes
No, I've never experienced this
30% - 566 votes
Vote
USD/ZAR
14.28
(-0.3)
GBP/ZAR
19.78
(-0.2)
EUR/ZAR
17.10
(-0.3)
AUD/ZAR
11.05
(-0.2)
JPY/ZAR
0.13
(-0.1)
Gold
1,781.26
(+0.3)
Silver
25.92
(-0.2)
Platinum
1,217.00
(+1.1)
Brent Crude
66.77
(-0.3)
Palladium
2,798.50
(+0.6)
All Share
68,699
(0.0)
Top 40
62,898
(0.0)
Financial 15
12,446
(0.0)
Industrial 25
89,364
(0.0)
Resource 10
70,350
(0.0)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo