Rugby Championship

The great Juan Smith mystery

2014-08-29 12:26
Juan Smith (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Never a dull moment at SARU as the Springboks head to Australasia sans Willem Alberts - and Juan Smith.

Let's go back a moment.

Alberts forms part of coach Heyneke Meyer's first-choice Springbok loose forward trio, but the big Sharks flank was ruled out of the Boks' opening two Rugby Championship matches against Argentina through injury.

Marcell Coetzee filled in at Loftus Versfeld as an impressive 11th-hour replacement, before Smith received an emotional call-up to the starting XV in Salta, while the Lions' Warren Whiteley got the nod as cover.

When naming his squad for the trip to Perth and Wellington, Meyer included Alberts, but made it clear that despite Whiteley "impressing him immensely during his week with the Springboks" it would be Smith who would be placed on standby should Alberts fail a fitness test prior to departure.

Whiteley then headed off to rejoin the Golden Lions in training for their Absa Currie Cup match against the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (19:10), while Smith was curiously included in his French club Toulon's match-day squad for their Top 14 clash against Racing Metro on Saturday - fuelling speculation that Alberts was indeed fit to travel.

However, when it was revealed late on Thursday evening that Alberts had in fact FAILED a fitness test, it was Whiteley who was drafted into the Bok squad, with Meyer saying Smith "requested more time to work on his match fitness".

Let's be honest, Smith was horrible in the 51 minutes he played in Salta. Much was made about his emotional 'return-from-the-wilderness' and his decision not to sing the national anthem prior to kick-off, but he was largely (read completely) anonymous on the field of play.

Smith went on to say it was the "darkest day" of his rugby career.

Which begs the question WHY Smith was included in the first place. He's certainly no less fit today than he was ahead of the Salta Test.

Did the Springbok management team simply buy too much into the sentimentality surrounding his fairytale comeback after numerous Achilles injuries?

Either way, the net effect is Smith has now turned down the chance to tour with the Boks, choosing instead to represent his French club. He could've toured in place of Whiteley - who isn't expected to get any game-time - and worked on his fitness in the coming weeks.

Smith has made no bones about the fact he sees playing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup as a "dream", but how does Meyer possibly select him going forward?

Springbok squad to travel to Australasia:

Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Lodewyk de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Marcel van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley

Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  juan smith  |  rugby

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