Bok skipper defies critics

2011-09-21 07:30

Auckland - Skipper John Smit left for the Rugby World Cup under siege to hold his place in the Springboks team yet he will be creating new records when he leads the defending champions against minnows Namibia on Thursday.

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Local writers caustically rated Smit as far from the republic's best hooker after an underwhelming international season and coach Peter de Villiers was under pressure to ditch him.

But Smit, 33, will lead out the Springboks in his record 109th appearance, in his 15th RWC match and a world record 82nd time as Boks skipper against the 19th-ranked Namibians at North Harbour as De Villiers continues to stand by his captain.

"I think our biggest challenge is to manage our players. We had two really bruising encounters, and from all of those John Smit is the only one standing, so you can see how valuable he is," De Villiers said.

Smit will take the field for his third consecutive tournament Test while keeping Bismarck du Plessis on the replacements bench as the Springboks look to back up their 49-3 dispatching of Fiji last Saturday.

"It is a good stepping stone to where we needed to go and to improve from last week. A lot of guys put some valuable time out there and some guys really put their hands up," Smit said.

"We were aware that we came into the tournament pretty undercooked from a rugby game time point of view so it was important for us to progress."

Du Plessis cannot mask his frustrations sitting on the bench: "Show me a player content to sit on the bench and I will show you a liar," he told a South African newspaper.

South Africa have won their last nine RWC matches and are expected to equal their record of 10, a run that started in 1995 and was ended by Australia in 1999.

The Boks have only lost one of their RWC pool matches - against England 25-6 in 2003 - and in their only encounter with their African neighbours swamped them 105-13 in Cape Town four years ago.

The comparison is stark. The Springboks are two-time World Cup champions, while Namibia have yet to win a single RWC match and were hammered 49-25 by Fiji and 49-12 by Samoa at this tournament.

"I really believe in my team and we can give South Africa a good show," Namibia skipper Jacques Burger said.

"You've got to believe you can compete against them and you've got to believe you can beat them even though the odds are against you a lot of the time. You've got to be up for it every time.

"We've got to keep the ball as much as possible. A team like South Africa, if you give them a lot of ball, they're going to score a lot of points against you. That's just the way they play."

If, as expected, the Springboks cash in with the points former IRB world player of the year and winger Bryan Habana could become the all-time Springbok record tryscorer, an achievement he currently shares with Joost van der Westhuizen on 38 tries.

Habana is among five Springbok changes with Gio Aplon on the other wing, Francois Hougaard to start at scrumhalf with Fourie du Preez on the bench, while flanker Willem Alberts replaces Heinrich Brussow and prop CJ van der Linde gets his first start of the tournament at tighthead.

Locks Victor Matfield and Johann Muller, centre Jean de Villiers and flyhalf Butch James were not considered for the match.

"There is no way that we will fall into any sort of comfort zone. The competitiveness between the players is just too strong and the pride to give your best for your country and the Springboks is too big," Hougaard said.

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  • Inhlanzi - 2011-09-21 07:46

    John Smit for president...of the ANC Youth League

      OU AAP - 2011-09-21 07:51

      Hy is klaar te oud ,maak hom President van Fleur oue tehuis

      Etienne Oosthuizen - 2011-09-21 08:07

      yes it needs proper leadership ...

      Jacques - 2011-09-21 10:52

      @Ou Kaap, leer spel voordat jy ander uithaal. Twat.

      GILLBERT - 2011-09-21 11:01

      dis hoekom bizzie nie start more nie dat hy n nuwe rekord kan opstel.... what a joke.... beste kaptein vir die groen en goud mar ook die k"kst speler in die selfde asem

  • SimonB - 2011-09-21 07:46

    Sure Div, a player has to actually play to get bruised in a bruising encounter as you state it, meaning, running yards, defense etc... In the Fiji encounter, Smit ran exactly 5 yards and made (guess 5) tackles in 60 minutes according to the game stats. Bismark did that in 1/3 of the time.

      Travis - 2011-09-21 08:17

      Stop talking rubbish, Simon. The stats that I saw was that he was on for 50 minutes, and made 10 tackles, which is a lot of tackles for amount of time. He played a great game, and was not lacking in effort and commitment. What is the problem, mate? Do you just have to criticise, or did you see something that the rest of the rugby watching world missed?

      OU AAP - 2011-09-21 08:24

      Travis ,stats se 5 Tackles,5 Missed tackles,en een Knock forward,Gaan kyk weer

      Theo - 2011-09-21 08:33

      When you go back to the stats Smit does absolutely nothing on the field , have you noticed how he hangs round the fringes of scrum , and when he is not there he will be in the back line. I'm not saying don't use him but rather start of with Bismarck , and bring on the so called leader towards the end of the game when the team really needs inspiration.

      Gazza69 - 2011-09-21 09:00

      I suppose if we win the WC, then John Smit will be hailed as a hero, so lets wait and see before we crucify the guy. He has a decent record.

      Paul - 2011-09-21 10:27

      Yes John Smit played a great game ... as did Spies, JP and Morne ... all players a lot of bloggers here were calling useless ... but then we all cannot know our Rugby like true Bok fans ,who reamain loyal to our Boks through thick or thin or lose ... GO BOKKE GO !!!

  • cocopops - 2011-09-21 07:47

    John can teach us all a lesson in humility, much the same as Madiba did, not once has he come out and verbally defended himself against some very harsh criticism. A good captain and one fantastic bloke, who after the WC is going to be sorely missed from a leadership point of view, no one to replace him. Bismark will get his chance after the WC as he will then be first choice hooker. God has blessed John with good leadership skill as well as loads of humility......our best captain ever.

      Khanya.McCutha - 2011-09-21 08:26

      Well put cocopops

      kwezi - 2011-09-21 09:03

      A good leader knows when to go. John does not. Bismarck (and at least 5 other hookers) is way better than Smit ever was and will be. Smit was suppose to have had a good game on Saturday. Sit still and watch him carefully. Count how many times he lingers round and about breakdowns. Check his tackling (touch rugby at his worst). Count how many times a ball is turned over when on the rare occassion he is in possession. watch how harmless his attempts are when trying to bridge the advantage line. And then watch Bismarck. He does in 2 minutes what John could not do in his hour of hanging around breakdowns and general play. People keep on harping on his socalled good leadership when on the field. Have you noted that when he has left the field in the past 2 matches, the Springboks suddenly starts to play inspiring rugby. Even against Fiji. Score tries and win matches after an hour of struggle to subdue the opponents. Div's remarks on the newly invented role of impact players is beyond believe. Put your best 15 to start and basta. Impact players are not there to rescue teams from defeat. They are not 911 players. Players like Alberts, Bismarck and Hougaard should start and beat the hell out of the opposition right from the start.

      The Pro - 2011-09-21 12:01

      Kwezi a World cup is won by a squad not a team. If you knew anything about rugby and team dynamics you would understand that Peter De villiers ( as much as it pains me to say this) is actually onto something here that few people can see........ Which rugby nation would be happy at the sight of Bismarck,Jean De villiers, Hougaard, Alberts, Steenkamp/Beast and possibly Butch coming on after 50mins? These guys are World Class game beaters and know how to finish off or get us back into and then finish off a game. I maintain that should we win the World Cup(Which we are more than capable of doing) we will thank our Bench as our squad is helluva experienced however not everybody can play 80mins at full tilt. Nowfor your lesson kwezi, in all reality John is a far more solid scrumming hooker than Bissie,his line outs are far cleaner and in a tight first 50 mins you need your calm heads on the field to make the tight calls and ensure that there is DISCIPLINE( Something Bissie doesn't always have) and we give away as few penalties as possible. Then wen the game opens up later we bring on the game breakers and fresh legs. As an all round player Bismarck adds a lot of value for the Springboks as he plays as a second or third fetcher and makes great yardage whenever he gets the ball and I am not for one second suggesting that John is the better player however both these players serve a purpose for the greater good of South African rugby and our push to retain the William Webb Ellis.

      kwezi - 2011-09-21 13:34

      @The Pro. Thanx for your professional input. This inspiring, cool-headed leader of us has a record of 8 losses in the last 9 trinations games. We even lost to Scotland! After he was dropped from the Sharks it led to the teams' revival in the S15. You don't pick your reserves to be impact players and salvage whatever damage was caused by the starting 15. We nearly lost it against Wales. Imagine, Nonu, Ali Williams and Dan Carter coming on as impact players because the ABs can then "bring on the game breakers with fresh legs". What ruibbish to use your best players as "impact players". In the match against Wales we were dead and buried under our "inspirational leader". Off he went and voila, we won by the narrowest of margins. Smit is not as humble as he is selfish. He said so and is determined to be the first captain on a team that wins the WC back to back. As much as I would love it to happen, it is not going to happen it Div keeps on picking him in his first 15.

      SG - 2011-09-21 15:53

      @ Cocopops - well said - I could not agree more. @ Kwezi - I agree that Bismarck is a better hooker than JS, but if you watched the same game as me (SA vs Fiji), you would have seen that JS and Bakkies stood out on defense in the SA team in the first 15 mintues. When Bismarck came on, he was penelised in his first scrum and had a 'Not straight' call in his first line out. That is where JS is better - his accuracy in setting the platform during the first 20-30 minutes. I agree that Bismarck makes a huge impact in the second half, but that is after JS built the platform. I did not even mention John's leadership abilities.

  • Daniel - 2011-09-21 07:49

    Why do in recent times South Africans develop such an obsession with hating their captains? Seriously? Why the insults?

      The Goose - 2011-09-21 08:52

      Not just their captains Daniel but their coach and the team at times.about 80% of the comments on here are negative towards the springboks. Weak support for a team representing your country as defending champions.I don't get it.....

      Marx - 2011-09-21 09:29

      Let me just remind you guys, the handful of negative stupid comments against our own people is in the minority, I said the other day, there are millions of us supporting the Boks and I refuse to be dragged down with this lot. The easiest thing in life is to be negative, specially if you never achieved something great in you miserable life, they called it jealousy!!

  • Jakkalsgat - 2011-09-21 07:51

    Still a stunning and world class team. On a good day with their minds on the right track and playing with the same "zeal" as some of the other bottom ranked teams like Japan to put in everything every minute, they can defend the title successfully. Watching the reruns of our clash with Fiji, it is understandable why John Smit is "the only one standing". He only had a few good runs with the ball where all his surrounding team mates had more than a few. This might've been their game plan, put your bodies in the line of fire to preserve the captain to allow him to break records and help P Div to prove a point? Whatever the case, I wish him and his team the best and may the only "upset" from South Africa's side be the fact that they've proven the skeptics wrong...

      birdman - 2011-09-21 09:08

      ..and we all saw John Smit coming off the field with a swolen right eye (which I'm sure is black by now). If anyone puts his body on the line it's JS! Captain my Captain!

      Jakkalsgat - 2011-09-21 10:37

      @birdman...My 4 year old son is capable of giving any grown man a black eye... I'm not saying he's not a good captain, he definitely is and the players respect him and so do I. But what I am saying is, the fact that he is working physically just as hard as his team mates is clearly disputable.

  • Serias - 2011-09-21 07:58

    CJ??? When last did this injury bus complete a full game? Wont last 40min.

  • Ya Beauty! - 2011-09-21 08:01

    Things are coming right at the right time.....young Lambie has to start at fullback if we are to win and Frans at center....somehow i do not see John starting all the games so he might start off the bench in the quaterz......or maybe against Samoa.....Bakkies could be a good impact player start with Dannie

  • Anneleen - 2011-09-21 08:05

    Go John, and go Bokke...our ambassadors and warriors!!!

  • - 2011-09-21 08:17

    if john smit really had the interest of the team and country at heart he would have stpped down, his selfish!

      Real_Issue - 2011-09-21 08:47 Step down for what mistakes or wrong doing?. You may have a personal issue here. I am Bulls supporter but wants John Smit to lead the Springbok, and so far he is leading a team on top of their group. What else do you want?. What will say or do if springbok was not at the curent log position?. Please man - 2011-09-21 10:56

      step down because du plessis is by far a greater hooker than he is.

  • Dontknow777 - 2011-09-21 08:17

    The team is greater than any individual player and there is no greater leader than Smit. You'll see this time and time again, the best team without a great captain amounts to little. You only need to look at the Protea's fiasco for a great example, or some previous Springbok captains that took us to World Cups! Bismark is perhaps the best hooker in the world, but Smit is above and beyond the best captain in the world and still a pretty great player. I'd rather have Smit make decisions on the field with 20 minutes to play in a World Cup final than anyone else we have in out squad.

      OU AAP - 2011-09-21 08:25

      En daar dag ek nog altyd my ma is die beste Hooker in die wereld

  • Chris - 2011-09-21 08:25

    Do we want personal records or the World Cup? He is to old and slow for a high intensity game against the Ausies or NZ Namibia yes. We wil need Bismark and pls dont even think about du Preez he is even worse.

  • Espresso - 2011-09-21 08:28

    I cannot believe the level of comments on this forum against our Captain. Although I agree Smit ma not be the best loose playing hooker, and in that facet of the game Bismarck is better, Smit does nothing wrong in the tight game such as the set pieces or rucks or mauls. He is also without doubt the best motivating captain this country has ever had. Anyway, I seriously doubt there is anyone on this forum or any other rugby forum that would stand up to a charging Fijian, Samoan or Kiwi forward and effect a crunching tackle. John does that without fear. All of us, including me, would crap enough bricks to renovate the Great Wall of China if we were in that position. Have a little respect.

      Theo - 2011-09-21 09:58

      I think we all respect him for what he was a brilliant hooker and world class leader, but the STATS are against him he is like a zombie on the field. When we get into the quarter finals we need to start with our best players and that would include Bismarck,

  • Davearch - 2011-09-21 08:30

    What rubbish ! When we play the better teams he is a definite weak link. He misses so many tackles and is so slow. Bismark makes a huge difference when he comes on. Maybe it will work in our favour as Bismark will be fresh for the 1/4 finals

  • ChandrĂ© Pelser - 2011-09-21 08:30

    Ek is ook een van die met baie respek vir John Smit. Twee jaar terug het ons van hom gevra om n vaskop te raak, toe tel hy 15kg op om te probeer. Toe hy dit nie regkry nie hoor almal hoe vrot hy is omdat hy te dik is. (Nadat PdV hom vra om die gewig op te tel...) Nou is hy weer in beter kondisie, speel 95% so goed soos Bismarck (Bismarck steel meer bal en is beter met bal in hand, JS gooi beter by lynstane in en staan minder strafskoppe af, beide skrum beter as enige ander hakers op aarde) JS se 10 duikslae is ongelooflik, aangesien hy net 60 min gespeel het en 10 meer is as wat n goeie flank meestal in n wedstryd lewer. Dan het hy ook op 23minute teen fiji toe ons 3-3 was op n los bal geduik in ons kwartgebied, van waar die game begin draai het. Laastens, John Smit KAN NIE seer kry nie - gee my 5 nie-bloed voorbeelde waar hy al ooit van die veld moes gaan. Ek voel vir Bismarck, maar ek het nog nooit enige rugbyspeler so respekteer soos ek vir JS respek het nie.

      Espresso - 2011-09-21 08:34

      I absolutely and 100% agree with you Chandre, on all points.

  • Davearch - 2011-09-21 08:33

    In the same way HOUGAARD is by far the best wing in the country. Alberts should be kept at lock, he is too slow for flank, but an awesome replacement. Burger and Brussouw have been awesome, with Brussouw constantly supporting the ball carrier, something we have not had in the past.

  • Ingie - 2011-09-21 08:35

    Can any of you commenting here do better???

  • Ruck'n Punt - 2011-09-21 08:40

    Amazing, woes first? read like a butter knife........cheers Divvy

  • adam - 2011-09-21 08:45

    Although 95% of SA will disagree with me, I still say you have to start Smit. Yes Bismark is a better hooker but remember when Mallett dropped teichman for Skinstad in 99. I think the players want Smit there. His leadership is unprecedented. Would Bismark have the same impact if he was on for 80 mins, baring in mind he is fresh when the opponents have already played a full hour of rugby. I do feel sorry for De Villiers in that as much as I disagree with some of what he does. If he wins this RWC people will say its Jake whites team, If he loses he gets crucified. If Smit plays and we lose people will claim Bismark should play, if Bismark plays and we lose, people will claim Smit should play. Divvy inherited a bunch of 23-27 year old's who wanted to play and therefore could not blood the youth as could you imagine if he dropped Burger 2 years ago. He has played the same players for the last 4 years and it would be silly to start chopping and changing with 6 games left of the RWC. You make your decision and you live by them

  • Ruck'n Punt - 2011-09-21 08:54

    First choice Mortlock, baldy

  • Heini - 2011-09-21 10:43

    I'm sorry but how exactly is he defying critics?? He is by FAR not the best hooker in SA but the coach keeps on picking him. If he was to defy critics he would play BETTER rugby than Bismarck, Schalk Brits, etc, but unfortunately he's not. So he's defying no one. Let's rather call him a lucky bastard who keeps on getting picked by a stupid bastard, that's more accurate

  • ntando mabaso - 2011-09-21 11:05

    I back John Smit!

  • Tidge - 2011-09-21 11:50

    "I think our biggest challenge is to manage our players. We had two really bruising encounters, and from all of those John Smit is the only one standing, so you can see how valuable he is,"...Sh1t is there no end to the garbage that comes out pdv's mouth.

  • Lida - 2011-09-21 12:29

    It is easy to be negative and to run somebody down. What the Boks need now (John Smit included) is our support. For me he IS the best captain and he makes the squad going forward. JS my money is on you. Show them.

  • Lean - 2011-09-21 13:42

    Some of you so-called Springbok supporters make me laugh. At the end of the day what you write on a website won't change the fact that John will be The Captain for the rest of the World Cup, and Probably start all the other Games too. He is an inspiration to all, And Like Habana they haven't had the best year, But they sure as hell try! They are doing better, and by QF time, they may surprise all. I For one will always support them as long as they play for the boks, Hell they can put Leon Schuster in at number 2, and I will support him too!! Why? Because that is what a "TRUE" Supporter does. So stop the bitching, crying, moaning, demeaning and just plain stupid comments. Get behind OUR team and OUR players, who are doing the best they can to win US a world cup. Win or Lose i will say this, Bokke FOREVER!

      Heini - 2011-09-21 16:33

      Point taken Lean...but the the media shouldn't write stupid articles saying 'Bok skipper defies critics'...he has defied no one! He keeps getting picked even though he is not the best in his position. The way this article is written is that he is showing everyone the 'toffie' cause he's playing some excellent rugby and proving he is the best....which is far from the case

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