Saturday, June 9, will officially herald the start of new Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s on-field coaching tenure, as the Springboks tackle England in Durban.
It will also be just a day short of 12 years, since the game’s most decorated captain made his debut in the famous jersey. Smit was among the replacements as the Boks eased to victory over Canada 51-18 in East London. The 34-year-old led the Boks a record 83 times in 111 test matches, to become an icon of the game.
EWN Sport caught up with Smit in Cardiff, where he’s currently captaining the Barbarians in their three-match tour against England, Ireland and Wales.
With the issue of the Bok captaincy dominating sports headlines, Smit remains calm about the issue of who his successor will be and says he doesn’t have a clear favourite for the role.
“I think there are a number of guys that can do it and he can’t get it wrong, “says Smit. “Whoever he (Meyer) chooses, it will be a personal thing and I don’t think it’s a massive issue really.
“I think we’ve made a massive thing about it because there hasn’t been a new one chosen in such a long time, and I think everyone’s just trying to make it as big a thing as possible.”
What is more concerning to Smit though is the current attrition rate among players with the Stormers and Springbok lock, Andries Bekker, the latest to be ruled out with a back injury. He joins the likes of Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen on the sidelines.
Smit says that the current rugby schedule is unsustainable.
“It’s a massive worry not only now because of the Test series but to be fair with this new Super XV format, it’s ridiculous to see how many guys get injured around the SANZAR nations,” Smit says.
“The players aren’t going to last forever if we carry on like this. To be honest every coach who’s coaching South Africa, Australia and New Zealand must have nightmares every weekend wondering who’s going to go down next.”
Smit joined English club Saracens after the World Cup in New Zealand and a squad that features a number of players in their ranks including Owen Farrell, Mouritz Botha and Durbanite Brad Barritt who are in the England touring party.
How does he think the Boks will fare against Stuart Lancaster’s team then?
“He’s (Meyer) got a good team to pick and I’m desperate for them to do well,” the former Bok skipper says.
“The only disadvantage that he has is time and the intensity of Super 15 and injuries, so he has only 5 days to prepare for the 1st test but they’ll get better and better.
“It’s a pretty good England side but I do believe if he gets it right and picks the right team that South Africa will have a great series.”
Sharks fans will have the opportunity to see Smit run out one final time at Kings Park on June 22 as he and a host of other international stars will play against the Sharks in aid of his charity The John Smit Foundation, affectionately known as Barney’s Army.
“It’s quite tough to put a squad together at a time like that. But once all the guys realised what it was about they have been pretty amazing. So, we’ve got a good team and come the 22nd I really hope it will be a great game.”
The line-up includes the likes of Joe van Niekerk (Toulon), BJ Botha (Munster), Brent Russell (Clermont), Jerome Thion (France), Takudzwa Ngwenya (USA), Francois Louw (Bath) and Victor Matfield among others.
“We’ve made the ticket prices at 50 bucks per person, which is nice and low. Every single cent will go to the charity which I think is different to any other sort of tribute game,” Smit says.
“It’s going to be an amazing opportunity, I get that final run-on at Kings Park and there’s a lot of emotion involved but the main thing is to launch the Foundation. It’s so that I have some kind of tool to give back for the amazing amount that I’ve been given through the game over the years.”
You can find out more about the John Smit Foundation here