Smith comeback near complete

Juan Smith (Gallo Images)
Juan Smith (Gallo Images)

Pretoria - If flanker Juan Smith is named on Wednesday in South Africa's squad to play Argentina in the Rugby Championship this weekend it will mark a fairytale chance to win a 70th cap after injury forced him to quit 18 months ago.

An Achilles tendon injury, that kept him out for more than two years, led to him calling time on his career but a surprise return less than 12 months ago has prompted the 33-year-old to dream of playing in a third World Cup in 2015.

"I went through five operations and it was tough.

"Every time you start your rehab and you think you're on your way, only to have to go back for another operation," Smith told reporters on Tuesday.

"Every time I went for an operation it was a dark moment for me.

"Eventually after five I decided to call it a day.

"Then a surgeon asked me, 'Will you give me a chance for a last operation?'.

"At that stage it wasn't a case of doing the operation to go back into rugby but just to walk without any pain," added Smith.

"For 28 months I went to bed with pain and woke up with pain.

"When everything went well I said to my wife, 'I have no pain, it's time to try again'."

Smith turned up at Toulon, surprised at being offered a short-term contract after a trial period.

He went on to have a stellar season culminating in scoring a try in the Heineken Cup final as the French club won the European crown with victory over Saracens, as well as taking the domestic Top 14 title.

"To win two cups with Toulon was fabulous, what better way was there to come back from that low? Now to be called up for the Springboks again is an awesome feeling," said Smith.

The flanker, who made his last Test appearance against England in November 2010, was part of South Africa's World Cup-winning team in 2007.

Smith also captained the Springboks against the Barbarians at Twickenham in 2010.

He was last month called into an expanded squad for the Rugby Championship which starts for South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.

"Everything that happens to me now is a bonus," said Smith.

"If you look at where I was a year ago the first thing for me was to try and just play 80 minutes of rugby again.

"As I finished last season I changed my goals but one goal I've always had was to play in three World Cups.

"I missed out in 2011 due to the Achilles injury so I'm going to try and reach next year's World Cup."

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