Super Rugby

John Smit relives heartache of 'epic' 2007 Super Rugby final: 'I shed a tear'

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Bryan Habana celebrates his try in the 2007 final (Gallo)
Bryan Habana celebrates his try in the 2007 final (Gallo)

Former Springbok and Sharks captain John Smit has opened up again on the heartache of losing the 2007 Super Rugby final to the Bulls

In what remains one of the most epic finals in the tournament's 25-year history, Smit's Sharks squandered a golden opportunity to win their first Super Rugby title when Bryan Habana sliced through their defence nearly two minutes after the hooter to land the Bulls a famous 20-19 win in Durban. 

It was the first of three Super Rugby titles the Bulls would win in a four-year period but, for Smit and the Sharks, it was devastating. 

Now, in an interview with tournament sponsors Vodacom celebrating 25 years of Super Rugby, Smit has looked back at that day once again. 

"As tough a day as that was, I don't think there's ever been a more epic final," said Smit.

"The first time two South African sides finishing first and second with the final being played in South African and, obviously, there can only be one winner.

"A very, very difficult day for us but the start of something quite special for the Bulls."

The Sharks had taken a 19-13 in the 78th minute that would have been enough had 19-year-old Frans Steyn not missed a relatively routine conversion attempt from just to the right of the uprights. 

By that stage, Smit was already off the park. 

"The relief of that try that Albert van den Burg scored was immense, especially us sitting on the bench," he recalled. 

"My time was done for that game so everything you watch is unfolding in front of you and, sadly, alongside me was Percy Montgomery, the best goal kicker in the tournament at the time.

"Frans was so young and so confident and he stepped up ... if you think about it, there was still Butch on the field who was a seasoned campaigner at that time and went on to play a big role in the World Cup final as well.

"I was very nervous because it was just one of those finals and you knew it was never ever going to be done."

Even after the missed Steyn conversion, the Sharks could have made the game safe if they had found touch when trying to clear their lines, but it was not to be and the result was THAT moment of Habana magic. 

"Before Bryan had that chance to step right twice and go through what looked like the biggest hole in Super Rugby's defence in the history of the game, there were opportunities before then to get rid of the ball and get out of our half," Smit says. 

"This is the beautiful thing about sport; you think you've got it, but it never really is done until the final whistle goes.

"As composed as I looked in this interview afterwards, I can tell you that was a difficult time for me.

"I spent a good 15 minutes locked in the toilet trying to compose myself and shedding a tear just so I could bring a brave face to the rest of which we'd had the best, most enjoyable season on and off the field.

"It's amazing how things work. If we had pulled that final off I think that team would have stayed together for a while, but it was the beginning of the end for us and the beginning of an era for the Bulls."

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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