Smit's captaincy unparallelled
Cape Town – South Africa dare not look further than John Smit for the captaincy of the Springbok team for next year’s World Cup.
It’s not as if Springbok coach Peter de Villiers needed convincing of that, but veteran Sharks lock Johann Muller felt it was necessary for the sceptical rugby media and public to be reminded of Smit’s quality.
Muller said that the “best captain in the world” had played a key role in helping the Sharks emerge from their slump this year. The Sharks lost their first five games in this year’s Super 14, but have since won four in a row.
“If we are honest with ourselves, we will say that we weren’t good enough in those first five games,” Muller said of the Sharks’ poor start.
“Even so, we should actually have beaten the Chiefs, Cheetahs, Waratahs and Brumbies. We had some rotten luck.
“It took some hard work to dig ourselves out. John Plumtree really grew as a coach and handled the pressure brilliantly. It’s also easier when you have the world’s best captain steering the ship.
“John has experienced similar situations. When I joined the Springboks in 2006 it was a difficult year for us.
“The only way to get through situations like that is to call on previous experience. John knows exactly where to look for the problems.
“We were also fortunate that other senior players such as Jacques Botes and Stefan Terblanche were in the set-up. You need your leaders to stand up and be counted.”
Smit has performed well as loosehead prop in recent weeks, though it has limited Tendai (Beast) Mtawarira’s chances.
However, it has meant that Plumtree has been able to fit Smit and Bismarck du Plessis into his front row.
The Sharks were infuriated by rumours earlier this year that Smit and the Du Plessis brothers – Bismarck and Jannie – did not get along.
There were also rumours of disappointment in the camp about Muller being replaced as captain in the Super 14 by Smit this year.
Muller, who will be joining Irish provincial team Ulster after the Super 14, never had a problem with it.
“Plum was very open about it. He came to me and Stefan and said ‘why not use the best captain in world rugby’. John and I are big friends and have played with and under one another. John is made for that role. It comes naturally to him.
“There are a few reporters and people who doubt whether he is the best in the positions that he plays, but for me as a player John just has to be there. He gets the best out of me.
“John’s performances in recent weeks have been excellent. I have no doubt that he should captain the Boks in 2011. It will offer South Africa’s best chance of retaining the Cup.”