Cheetahs optimistic over Smith's return

Juan Smith’s return will help bolster the Cheetahs’ team after he was forced to retire in February.

Springbok Juan Smith. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The Managing Director of the Free State Cheetahs Harold Verster has told Eyewitness News Sport that they're hopeful Juan Smith can still make a competitive return to the game.

The Springbok and Cheetahs flank, capped 69 times, was forced to announce his retirement in February after a persistent Achilles tendon problem caused him to struggle to walk, let alone play.

Another operation finally seems to have alleviated the problem.

Verster told Eyewitness News Sport that there's cautious optimism that Smith can return to reclaim a spot in the Cheetahs squad.

"I saw Juan a week back, he's still in the gym with the physios from time to time, and that's after a follow-up operation on his Achilles tendon. It's much better now that he's training and wants to be fit sooner rather than later. His answer to me on whether he'll be able to play soon again was: "we'll wait and see.""

Verster confirmed that if Smith decides he's ready to return then they'll welcome him back.

"Juan is such a great player and character that we hope he can come back for a season or two."

Naka Drotske's Cheetahs side have performed well in Super Rugby this year as a result seeing a number of call-ups to some of their stars including the likes of Trevor Nyakane, Piet van Zyl, Lappies Labuschagne and Willie le Roux, among others.

Verster says that despite added interest from other unions in their players, they've managed to retain the bulk of their squad going forward.

"We have signed quite a lot of our core players already. There are still some that we are negotiating with. It's always difficult when your players get selected for the Springboks, it puts pressure on you as their value doubles but your budget doesn't.

"Then it becomes difficult. But I'm very happy with the progress that we've made and with the number of players that we've already signed."