Jean de Villiers says Juan Smith's return to the Bok fold is just reward for his hard work and determination.
Smith, whose career looked all but over after a string of Achilles tendon injuries, has been called up to the Springbok squad as cover for the injured Victor Matfield ahead of the Boks' Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Loftus next Saturday.
Following a stellar season with Toulon, in which he claimed the Top 14 and European Cup titles, Smith's return to top-flight rugby was complete after he recieved the call from Bok coach Heyneke Meyer.
De Villiers was effusive in his praise of Smith on his return from a three-year absence.
'What a story,' said De Villiers. 'I remember him handing out the jerseys to us in Nelspruit last year, and you could see the determination in his mind. He felt he still had a lot to give and that there was unfinished business.'
De Villiers added that Smith's drive to overcome adversity could be a lesson to the younger players in the group.
'It just shows what can be achieved through hard work, desire and commitment. A lot of people wrote him off, said he'd never play again, but to see him come back is unbelievable. He's a great player and a great guy, and what a great story to tell.'
Smith will join up with the squad on Thursday, where he will not only provide cover as a loose forward, but as a No 5 lock as well.