Smith not ruled out of RWC yet
Juan Smith (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein – The Springboks should know on Monday whether Juan Smith will be available for their World Cup campaign in New Zealand.
Smith tore his Achilles tendon in the second minute of the Cheetahs’ 23-25 defeat to the Bulls in their Super Rugby match on Friday night.
It has been widely speculated that Smith will miss the global showpiece, but there is a possibility that he will recover in time. It was thought on Friday that he would be sidelined for approximately six months.
Smith is definitely lost for the Cheetahs’ onslaught in the Super Rugby competition and the regional side are under pressure to show that they can cope without him.
Team doctor Ian Morris said that Smith would undergo further tests on Monday and the seriousness of the injury would only be known then.
It may not be a complete tear, and even if it is, there is a possibility that Smith will be available for the World Cup. He may even be out for a shorter period than six months.
The Boks play their first World Cup match on September 11. Smith will be in a race against time, but if the diagnosis is that he will be out for six months, he may be able to play again in August.
Victor Matfield, the Bulls captain and a Springbok team-mate of Smith, said that the injury is a major blow.
“Last week the Cheetahs lost Adriaan Strauss. It was a setback and now it’s Juan, who is another important leader and their captain. It’s a great pity about Juan. It does not sound good,” said Matfield.
“Guys like myself and Bakkies (Botha) have played more Tests with him than we have played games for the Blue Bulls. We hope it isn’t too serious and that he will be able to play again soon. He is a pillar of strength for South Africa.”
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské was delighted with the way his team coped without Smith for almost a full match. The Cheetahs have struggled without their inspirational captain in the past.
Flyhalf Naas Olivier had to take over the captaincy from Smith early on and lock Francois Uys had to play on the flank for almost 80 minutes.
Drotské believes that the performance offered proof that the players can do their bit in Smith’s absence.
“The one positive is that the players realised they can be competitive and play well, even if Juan is not on the field,” he said.