Lions in SA

Smit cherishes series victory

2009-07-05 12:51
Satisfied skipper (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa's 2-1 series win over the British and Irish Lions felt as good as the country's World Cup win in 2007, according to Springbok skipper John Smit.

Smit led the Boks to World Cup glory in France two years ago, and stayed on to play with French club Clermont.

But he turned his back on a lucrative contract extension to come back and nail a place for the Lions tour.

Despite going down 28-9 in the final Test in Johannesburg on Saturday, the Springboks clinched their series-victory over the Lions after winning the Tests in Durban (26-21) and Pretoria (28-25) last month.

"This series victory ranks alongside our World Cup win," said Smit. "A Lions series is a rare occasion - I had two cracks at the World Cup, but this was my first and last against the Lions."

The Lions tour every four years, alternating between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They were last in South Africa in 1997, but will not be back for another 12 years.

"This has been a great series... and Lions series have a huge future in international rugby," the prop insisted.

"The series was tough and competitive, which showed in how close it was at the end. This is a rugby tradition that should be kept."

The Johannesburg-based Sunday Times paid tribute to the Lions, headlining: "Record-equalling total and points margin over Boks as whitewash is avoided.

"John Smit and his men tried, but just weren't good enough to beat a British and Irish Lions side hell-bent on redemption after losing the first two Tests of the three-match series.

"The Springboks were outplayed, out-muscled and out-thought."

It added: "Yesterday's win was a much-needed one for a team generously proportioned in every sense except, in recent times, the Test win column."

The last time the Lions won a Test was in June 2001 in Australia, when they beat the Wallabies 29-13.

"Yesterday's win was an exercise in restoring pride on two fronts," the Sunday Times said. "They managed to avoid a series whitewash and they might have restored the belief that Lions tours aren't just money-making exercises."

However, the paper added that "as richly as the Lions deserved to win yesterday, the match was slightly diminished after both sides announced drastically changed squads for this Test".

With South Africa now heading towards the uncompromising Tri-Nations tournament against Australia and New Zealand, domestic news agency SAPA had a word of warning about coach Peter de Villiers' squad.

"The British and Irish Lions outplayed the Springboks 28-9... scoring three tries to none and showed that their player depth had been very much underrated and that of South Africa's perhaps overrated," it said.

"The Lions scored seven tries in the series to the Springboks' five and also scored more points in the series with 74 to the Boks' 63.

"Again the Springboks' much-vaunted strength against a top-class side was put into question when a Bok team consisting of a few second-stringers and some of their very best were put to the sword by a top, albeit weakened, side - just as the All Blacks and Wallabies did before the World Cup in 2007."


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