Public criticism of Springbok captain John Smit should be reserved

Public criticism of Springbok captain John Smit should be reserved until he has had an opportunity in his favoured position of hooker in the Super Rugby competition, says national coach Peter de Villiers, who has expressed his frustration at not being able to judge the form of his World Cup captain.

Speaking at yesterday’s announcement of the 23 contracted Springboks for the 2011 season, De Villiers said: “It is unfair that there has been negativity about John because he shouldn’t be playing prop after having lost weight to be a hooker once more.

“I respect him so much for the fact that when I needed him to play tighthead prop for South Africa, he agreed without question and put on weight so he could handle the position, then when Jannie du Plessis developed into a good tighthead and BJ Botha came back from Ireland, I told him I wanted him at hooker again, so he went and got into condition for the more mobile position but is now being played at prop,” De Villiers said.

“I can’t see why they (the Sharks) don’t give him a chance at his best position.” He added.

The answer is the imposing figure of Bismarck du Plessis, who is in sensational form and is quite possibly the best hooker in the world right now.

Sharks coach John Plumtree was asked at a press conference on Tuesday whether Smit would play hooker at some stage and he wearily answered, as if fed up of the old Smit-Bismarck debate: “It is a very long competition and I have only two hookers in the squad (Craig Burden is now with the Sharks XV in the Vodacom Cup) – everybody will get a chance to start and come off the bench. I hope that answers the question.”

Meanwhile De Villiers says the slimmer Smit’s work rate is compromised by the fact that he is playing prop.

“He has to work very hard to hold his own in the scrums and it is taking the firepower out of his legs. It is hard for him to get around the field and get to the form people think he is no longer capable of.”

De Villiers is hopeful that as the marathon Super Rugby competition wears on, rotation will see Smit get his chance in the Sharks No 2 jersey.

“The way I see it, the Stormers are making a plan with their three (Springbok) centres (Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh), and the Bulls with their four (Bok) locks. They rotate,” De Villiers observed.

“The problem for me is that right now I can’t say John will be my starting hooker at the World Cup because I can’t judge him. Very importantly, if he is not No 1 he will definitely be No 2, but currently he is nowhere and I have to try and judge him on previous achievements.”

De Villiers says he will be out of the country for a week or so and then plans to meet with Plumtree.

“We have to work together to help a great servant of South African rugby,” De Villiers said. “We are talking about the most capped captain in international rugby. It is a frustrating time for me because to judge him I need to see him at hooker.”

There are no surprises in the squad of contracted players announced by the coach but he did add that these players were not guaranteed a free ride to the World Cup.

“We offer contracts so that we keep the best players in the country playing against each other, for the obvious reason of maintaining high standards,” he said. “But I have seen a number of new young faces putting their hands up this year and if they keep it up we could have some surprises in the World Cup squad.”

De Villiers said the door was also not shut on overseas-based Springboks such as Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar.

“A guy like Frans is certainly in the picture and I am hopeful that the Lions can get it right o bring him back from France for the second half of Super Rugby.”

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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