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Inspirational leader John Smit caught in action by Gerhard Steenkamp

Inspirational leader John Smit caught in action by Gerhard Steenkamp

This Saturday in Soweto, more than 80’000 rugby fans will witness Springbok captain John Smit suit up in a Springbok jersey and run onto the world rugby stage for the 100th time.

Rugby15 pays tribute to a loyal, tenacious and inspirational South African rugby legend.

John William Smit was born on 3 April 1978 in Polokwane(Pietersburg). He attended Fields Primary school in Rustenburg before making the trip to Pretoria where he attended Pretoria Boys High School and became only their second Springbok product. Years later Chilliboy Ralepelle followed in Smit’s footsteps and bacame their third Springbok.

After school Smit joined the Sharks where he has played all of his SA provincial rugby for the Sharks franchise. He did however have a short stint with French Top 14 club Clermont after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, but returned to the Sharks after one season abroad.

Smit was handed his first Springbok cap on 10 June 2000, when Nick Mallet brought him on as substitute in a 51-18 victory over Canada in East London.

He played a further five tests as replacement against New Zealand and Australia before earning his first start at hooker in a 37-33 victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires.

Smit then played a further 16 test over two years before Rudolph Straeuli entrusted Smit with the captaincy against Georgia at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Smit tasted his first victory as captain with a 46-19 victory before they crashed out to New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

In 2004 Jake White took over the coaching job from Straeuli and subsequently announced that Smit will be the man to lead the Boks under his reign as coach. That same year Smit and White guided the Boks to their second Tri-Nations title in the history of the tournament.

Between October 2003 and June 2007 Smit played in a record 46 consecutive Test matches, including 42 as captain, before a injury in the first Tri-Nations match against Australia sidelined him until the start of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Smit played in all 7 matches, including the final against England which they won 15-6, earning the Springboks their second World Champion title since readmission to the sport.

In 2008, Jake White was replaced by current Springbok coach Peter de Villiers. De Villiers knew what a good leader and player he had in Smit, that was confirmed when Smit retained the Springbok captaincy. Smit was experimented with, and moved to tight-head prop for most of the 2008, 2009 seasons and in 2009 Smit guided and spearheaded the Springboks to one of their most successful seasons ever.

First he led the Springboks to a 2-1 series victory over the British & Irish Lions before they totally overpowered New Zealand and Australia in the 2009 Tri-Nations, winning 5 out of 6 matches and recording a 3-0 whitewash against New Zealand.

Smit is now the most capped International captain(73 Tests) but also the most capped forward(99) and hooker(84) in Springbok history. Smit surpassed Os du Randt’s record of 80 Tests as Springbok forward on 22 November 2008.

Smit is without a doubt SA’s most successful captain with 50 victories from 73 Tests, boasting a 68% winning ratio in a career that spans 10 years and now has more Test victories as captain than any other Springbok has ever played as captain.

In a 2009 charity event held in London and organised by Stephan Weyers from the Essentially Group, Smit was honoured for his exceptional leadership skills on and off the field but also for the roles he played in the Springboks’ victories in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, British and Irish Lions Test Series and 2009 Tri-Nations.

More than 600 guests attended the event and included All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and his whole team, former Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter and most of Smit’s Springbok team mates.

Some of Smit’s honours include:

SA Rugby – Young Player of the Year nominee(1999)

Players’ Player of the Year(2005)

SA Rugby – Player of the Year nominee(2009)

So, when John William Smit runs out at the FNB Stadium on Saturday 21 August, lets stand up along with 89’000 other fans and acknowledge a true hero of South African and world rugby.

Full Names: John William Smit

Date of birth: 3 April 1978

Place of birth: Polokwane

Height: 188cm

Weight: 120kg

Springbok tries: 6

[Article by James Loretz for www.rugby15.co.za] [james@rugby15.co.za]

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