John Smit (Gallo)
Johannesburg - Decorated former Springbok captain John Smit believes winning the Rugby Championship should not be the focal point for South Africa and they should rather focus on their continued upward trajectory.
“For me, the Championship (title) is irrelevant for this team. It is about progression and beating the All Blacks. It's about getting these little skeletons on the belt and they’ve been doing it,” Smit said on Thursday.
“This Springbok team has won nine out of 10 Test matches, that is their record, so they are going okay.”
The Springboks could claim the Rugby Championship title for the first time in four years when they faced New Zealand in Saturday’s decider at Ellis Park.
Smit was the last Springbok captain to win the Southern Hemisphere competition back in 2009 and, he believed, coach Heyneke Meyer’s side had the ability to become the top team in world rugby.
“I really like the way our team is going at the moment. What I like about our Springbok team, in comparison with the other teams in international rugby at the moment… they are performing better and better and they have a huge potential to get even better,” he said ahead of the crunch Test.
“Are they (the Springboks) the best yet? No. The All Blacks are still number one. Can they win on Saturday? They most definitely can win on Saturday.”
The Springboks have already shown a 100 percent improvement from last year’s competition where they only managed to win two of their matches and draw one with Argentina.
A victory alone over their traditional foes would indicate the Boks were closing the gap between them and the number one team in the world.
The Boks, however, had greater ambitions. A mere victory would not win them the trophy. To achieve their hopes of winning the championship, they would need to score a four-try bonus point victory over the All Blacks, and prevent the visitors from scoring a bonus point of their own.
Smit believed the Springboks would draw some inspiration from a sold-out Ellis Park crowd which had traditionally been an ally to the team.
“We have an unbelievably hostile crowd - in a good way. They get pumped, they get involved, they shout and scream and they beat drums when the drums are available. We should drop some vuvuzelas there as well,” Smit said.
“We haven’t lost too many games at Ellis Park.”
The Springboks had won eight of their 11 encounters against New Zealand at the stadium, with the visitors’ last victory here dating back to 1997 when they beat the Boks 35-32.