Former World Cup-winning captain John Smit says it was a ‘special, surreal’ experience to watch the Springboks repeat the feat in Japan last year, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a wide-ranging Zoom chat with SARugbymag.co.za, Smit reflected on his first-hand experience of the Springboks’ success in 2019, with the former hooker spending time in Japan as part of a broadcast team.
During a recent interview, one of Smit’s 2007 teammates, Frans Steyn, said the first time he got emotional was when he saw his former captain watching on from the sidelines some 12 years later.
Smit suggested the feeling was mutual.
‘When Frans did come past, it was a surreal moment because here was this young kid who played with us in 2007 and kicked the winning penalty goal against England. He went from being this young, long-haired, care-free teenager to this mentor and impact player who covered so many positions. It was a special and emotional moment.’
Watching on this time as a ‘supporter’, Smit says one thing that stood out from the final was just the manner in which the Springboks controlled the game so emphatically.
‘The stars just aligned for the Boks, they started like a house of fire, and dominated up front at the set pieces. The energy kept coming and I think it was hard for England to match that energy, because I don’t think they’d prepared for a South African side to come out like that.
‘There was very little stress in that Test match for a South African fan, it looked like it was our game from the start to the finish. And it was wonderful to watch from the stands … it was a magical 80 minutes.’
Smit added that with continuity in coaching staff and playing personnel, he believed the Springboks could be set for long-term success.
‘I think they’ve all bought into the plans of Rassie [Erasmus] and Jacques [Nienaber], and this is the best chance we’ve got of having a nice four-year period rather than the rollercoaster that SA rugby seemingly loved to go on with players and coaches changing in the past. So, I do think we are well set up for some consistent success.’