Johannesburg - John Smit ended the 2009 season back at his old position of hooker, but he is not fussy where he plays for the Sharks this season.
The Sharks captain is sitting out Tuesday night’s opening Super 14 warm-up match against the Force, the second of the Neo Africa Tri-Series also featuring the Stormers, with Craig Burden down to start at hooker against the Australian franchise and Jannie du Plessis at tighthead.
Smit played most of the last international season at tighthead prop, but moved back to hooker for the final match of the end of season tour against Ireland in Dublin after making an impression when he was moved to the middle of the scrum for the last minutes of the previous game against Italy.
For most of 2009 the Bok management were adamant that Smit was specialising and would not be playing hooker again, but the Bok captain says he is happy to play both prop and hooker.
“I’m still open to playing both and I am just happy to be here still playing,” said Smit.
According to Smit, it all comes down to where he is needed by his respective coaches and team selectors.
“If they need me to play three, then I will play three, but if they need me to play two, then I will play two. Fortunately at the Sharks we have both Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, who are both excellent at hooker and tighthead. So I won’t be carrying too heavy a load.”
Smit expects to be rested for at least part of the Super 14 season as the national players look to recharge themselves after a heavy 2009 season which saw them play a tough series against the British and Irish Lions in addition to the Tri-Nations.
“The break was very short, but it always is, and there is no point in complaining. I do feel re-energised though after taking December off and credit to the Sharks coaches for putting the Bok players on personalised programmes. I feel pretty good after the break.”
On the subject of how much longer he is going to put his 32-year-old body through the rigours of Super 14 and international rugby, Smit said that it would depend on how long he could still add value.
“It is up to the coaches really. As long as they feel I can make a contribution, then I will continue, but if they feel I no longer add value, then it will be time for me to quit,” said Smit.
He added that he had no preference for hooker or prop, even though he has played most of his senior rugby in the No2 jersey of either the Sharks or the Springboks.
“My first preference would be to ensure that wherever I am playing, I am adding value. When that stops, I suppose people will stop seeing me.”
Meanwhile the Western Force have decided to follow the same policy they did before last week’s match against the Stormers by not finalising a team for Tuesday night’s game. Coach John Mitchell did confirm though that most of the first choice players will be in action.
Sharks team: Stefan Terblanche (captain), Luzuko Vulindlu, Waylon Murray, Riaan Swanepoel, Lwazi Mvovo, Monty Dumond, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel, Steven Sykes, Alistair Hargreaves, Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden, Tendai Mtawarira.
Reserves: Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit, Johann Muller, Jacques Botes, Charl McLeod, Andries Strauss, Odwa Ndungane, Patric Cilliers, Willem Alberts, Gerhard Mostert, Patrick Lambie, Adrian Jacobs, JP Pietersen.