Smit doubt looms over Boks

2011-09-03 06:36

Johannesburg - South Africa's preparations for their World Cup defence have been shaken by questions over whether their highly-respected captain, hooker John Smit, is the right man to once again lead them into battle, or whether his presence will prove a telling weak link.

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Smit's inspirational leadership and solid play were lauded as being major factors in the Springboks' 2007 World Cup triumph in France. Four years on, and many South Africans consider Smit to be symbolic of that team's demise, his presence being blamed for their slide from the peak of world rugby.

Smit's cause has not been helped by the form of his Sharks team-mate and rival for the number two jersey, Bismarck du Plessis, whose abrasive play and sheer physical presence have won him many admirers.

South Africa's poor recent form - they have lost eight of their 10 Tri-Nations matches against World Cup favourites New Zealand and Australia in the last two years - has raised questions over whether coach Peter de Villiers' decision to retain most of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad is a wise one.

It will allow the Springboks to field a vastly experienced team in New Zealand, with the likes of wings Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, centres Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, flank Schalk Burger, locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, and Smit knowing what it takes to beat the world.

But the change in law interpretations, now favouring the attacking team retaining the ball, has been a blow to the Springboks' formerly highly-effective kicking strategy and suffocating defence, and it remains to be seen whether they can adapt to a game that has become faster and more fluid.

South Africa's defence has also become alarmingly soft, conceding 22 tries in last year's Tri-Nations and 11 in two matches on the away leg this year, though it did stiffen in their two matches at home, when their defensive line was breached several times but they conceded just two tries.

While the "old guard" may be falling out of favour with the fickle South African public, De Villiers has included some new blood that has occasionally lifted the Springboks from their slumber.

Prop Tendai Mtawarira and flanker Willem Alberts are powerful ball-carriers, while exciting backs like Pat Lambie, Francois Hougaard, Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh are capable of scintillating play.

But it is openside flanker Heinrich Brussow who will perhaps be most crucial to South Africa's hopes. He is the only player who has the pace and skills to match New Zealand's Richie McCaw and Australia's David Pocock, who have proven to be the Springboks' chief nemeses in the Tri-Nations.

But with a hard-driving forward pack, a powerful lineout, a marvellous playmaker in Du Preez, and a history of being able to win knockout games, the Springboks are optimistic they will quickly return to winning ways in the World Cup.

South Africa open their World Cup campaign on Sept. 11 against Wales, their chief rivals in Pool D, although their matches against Samoa and Fiji will be bruising encounters as well.


  • hendrik.pienaar - 2011-09-03 06:48

    Hell yeah John is the right man to lead this team! He's got the aura!! And even if he hasn't been at his best this year, he's capable of pulling out big games when it matters. GO JOHN!! GO BOKKE!!!

      Walter - 2011-09-03 07:02

      I've heard much similar criticism of John Smit from friends and published in the press of late. There's no doubt he's getting on and these will be his last test matches for the 'Boks. However, think about it? Cometh the hour, like Rommel was to the Germans and Eisenhower to the Allied forces, the 'Boks need him, even if he has to warm the bench for most of the final. I say final, because I have a gut feeling we'll be there and he'll be there............... when the 'Boks most need him.

      Mthetwa - 2011-09-03 07:35

      He is a great leader. Done it before. He is there now. Support him & the team. Stop writing SH@T articles like this.

      Jay - 2011-09-03 08:09

      I agree, they are there now, what is, is and what will be will be....................time to stop analyzing and get behind the boys.

      ZACommentator - 2011-09-03 08:44

      It's too late to worry about this. Whatever happens happens

  • Claude - 2011-09-03 06:56

    Time will tell but he should be an off the field Captain and the replacement Hooker for the last 20 minutes. If he starts then he must be replaced at half time. Are the leadership skills in the team so poor that we can't do without Smit on the field? Its quiet clear that Bismark is the more influential presence at Hooker. That said we must support the team come what may.

  • Johann - 2011-09-03 06:57

    Well done News24 for publishing such a supporting article a week before the WORLD CUP you chops. When we win the thing, you aren't allowed to gloat over it. GO BOKKE!!

      Grayman - 2011-09-03 07:35

      Just another bunch of re-hashed crap to serve up because the journalist had to produce a story by deadline. Poor journalism, poor patriotism, poor News24!

      Daboyd - 2011-09-03 09:16

      Absolutely...whoever wrote this article is a chop!!!

  • Andrew - 2011-09-03 06:58

    Give it a rest already. This is not news any longer but a regurgitation of the same article printed for the past 12 months. Have you blokes go nothing else to write about? Jeeeessshhh

  • Claude - 2011-09-03 07:03

    Just seen the news article where P d V says in an interview in New Zealand that John Smit is the best Hooker in the World. What does that say for P d Vs Rugby acumen.

  • odysseus - 2011-09-03 07:10

    This article doesn't serve much purpose at all just before RWC..... we have all accepted it by now and now is NOT the time to sow seeds of doubt. Smit can add to the team, and his presence in all aspects of the tour will be a positive I'm use him when and how it seems fit. My hope is the coaching staff don't try to stick to some pre-planned formula and mess it up as a result.. For example if we are playing NZ and are up 12-11 with 10 minutes to go, AND Bismarck is having an all time cracker of a game, it just may be unwise to bring him on simply because this was planned at the outset.. I wish the coach and players fluid and spontaneous wisdom in their decision-making..

  • Pokkel - 2011-09-03 07:15

    Fire the writer of this article!

      thefeather - 2011-09-03 07:29

      Convenient that the "journalist's" name doesn't appear here....

      slg - 2011-09-03 07:45

      Yes, it's ridiculous. News24, do want loyal readers and bloggers to jump ship?

  • phoenix - 2011-09-03 07:26

    The graveyard is full of indisensible people. Smit should have gone a long time ago.

  • MEopinion - 2011-09-03 07:41

    Typical ar##h##le of a joutnalist- create a story from nothing in order to try to weaken our team.

  • Archibald Mazuru - 2011-09-03 07:57

    News zero you are idiots don't you have something positive to write about? The whole nation is behind John and his charges, hell the whole continent and nowhere else are these sort of discussions being held except among tripe, you guys are a shameful bunch. If you guys are looking for negative news follow Julius Malema, he has got a closet full of nonsense to dish out to you.

  • Wallaby - 2011-09-03 07:58

    John Smit is our secret weapon. Darn! I shouldn't really tell you that now should I?

  • call a spade - 2011-09-03 08:07

    Stupid article. Now is not the time for this kind of debate. The boks are gone as agroup. They will sort out who will captain when. Do not write for the sake of writing.

  • Blip - 2011-09-03 08:09

    He's chosen, He's the captain. It's done.Move on.for heaven's sake!

  • Jamie Stockley - 2011-09-03 08:14

    Lets get over this BS, he is there, lets back the man and the BOKKE. The man puts the team first and always has, he's not going to change that now on his last outing !

  • markusjoe - 2011-09-03 08:17

    I see that writer didn't have the guts to attach his name to this piece of rubbish. The Smit Captain issue has been debated at length, it's over - give it a rest. Fire the useless reporter who has nothing constructive to write about.

  • F.Smit - 2011-09-03 08:18

    This is a hugely disappointing article when i read this, this morning i was in shock of how any journalist or any BOK supporter could still try to discredit or talk down either an player, coach or the team for that matter. After the sendoff the BOKS received i believed that the time for any judgment on our part is over and the time to get behind OUR TEAM and PLAYERS is here we finally got their spirits up and ours, and now you try to get readers by writing this and in the process break us again what ever we think of individuals players or the team is irrelevant, NOW is the time to talk the BOKS up and get the nation behind them. Sport24 must please accept this as a formal complaint by a avid reader and Bok supporter and start being the responsible news group that we need right now.

  • Sbuda - 2011-09-03 08:19

    What a really stupid article!!!! What's new here that we haven't heard before? Reading the title you'd swear something actually happened in the camp down under. News24 here's some news for you: the currie cup still interests us, rather write about it than give us something this stupid!!!

  • Louis - 2011-09-03 08:28

    Whoever wrote this article should get a life and get behind the boks. I am sick and tired at this kind of reporting.

  • Rightway - 2011-09-03 08:39

    For a moment i thought i was reading a article from an over seas news paper. Why are news 24 publishing articles like this at this late hour. Must be AA or something as a reasonable person could not have published such nonsense.

  • praxis - 2011-09-03 08:42

    Isn't it ironic that crap like this allways surface just before big tournaments - and then he does not have the courage to put his name there

  • Dana Roets - 2011-09-03 08:51

    Come on. Like with Julius Malema the press is the demon here. They want to rule and devide. The youngsters were given chances last November and on the away leg this year and the were wanting. If the press stopped their negative reporting John would have had a lot more game time and would have been in a lot better form. He is making big strides and is an excellent hooker probably the most accurate lineout thrower in the world. He lost a couple of kg's to be more mobile as a hooker and then we expect of him to be a tight head prop. If we sent a bunch of youngsters we would have had no chance. It is time to unite behind the Bokke. This bad and uncalled press does more damage than we all think. It plants seeds of uncertainty and it cause devision. The players are saying John is the man and they know best. Let's all unite behind the Bokke. GO JOHN. GO BOKKE!!!!

  • Mark Belcher - 2011-09-03 08:54

    Please someone fire the journalist who wrote this article. They are an oxygen thief

  • Steve - 2011-09-03 09:43

    At least the writer ,who seems to know what all of us feel could have given his I read the comments it is clear the 'author ' is soo far off the mark.It is time to show your colours mr author the chop;the team is chosen,John is the Captain and we have a great team that gets my support,win or lose.Perhaps the author is moving to the choking team of world cups,New Zealand.

  • Tank24 - 2011-09-03 10:24

    I look forward to the day when tabloid trash lines the bird cages of the world. What a poor standard of reporting this is. It has nothing new to say and is only fuelling the anti John Smit brigade. Whether he is right for the job or not, it is too late to do anything about it now so why not just get behind the boys and support them. John Smith has been loyal to SA Rugby and as such deserves a bit more respect than this. Why is it OK for the press to build people up and then cut them down when they feel like it? What is with News24? Always trying to sow discord amongsts every single South African, the racist articles and comments that litter these web pages daily are shocking. This has more of a forum feel to it than an actual news site. It is web pages like these that continue to hold people in the past by fueling their hate and fears. It is time people realise that you become what you read and listen to, and all this negativity and utter rubbish isnt' doing any-one except News24 any good. People need to start taking responsibilty for their actions and by writing hateful and negative comments you are part of the problem. Stop hiding behind the excuse by saying it is public debate and freedom of speach etc. You may have the right to do something but that doesn't mean you have to do it, especially if it hurts some-one else in the process. I challenge every-one reading this to go 1 day without saying anything negative about anything, I doubt very few will last 1 hour.

  • TheGreenMan - 2011-09-03 10:42

    What a rubbish and deceptive article. The grand statement in your opening line is not even substantiated in the actual article! What exactly has happened since the Boks left that has 'shaken' their defense? Sensationalism at it's best (or rather WORST).

  • Neutralist - 2011-09-03 23:39

    Peter De Villiers needs to be smart in using his bench. If the entire team has been playing well in a crunch game, there's no need to sub people on "because it was planned." If Smit or Bismarck is playing well, keep them on the field. Likewise with the other players.

  • Kleinboet - 2011-09-04 00:46

    John Smit is not my man but he is in the team and, therefore, I will support him. If he plays badly, the other fourteen players will just have to up their game until PdeV replaces him. What I do not want is that his inclusion should be an excuse if we lose any game. Likewise, if we win a game it is the team that won that game, not John Smit or his unsurpassed captaincy. He is but one player in the team and may excell or flounder just like any other player - there is nothing special about him that elevates him above any other player.

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