Smit looks to his day of destiny

South Africa captain John Smit will seek to emulate Francois Pienaar on Saturday in lifting the Rugby World Cup by beating England in the final and admits he is driven by a sense of destiny, though he accepts it will not fall into his lap.

The 29-year-old hooker was present in Johannesburg when South Africa stunned the All Blacks and Pienaar received the World Cup from then-president Nelson Mandela.

“The most important thing about destiny is that you have to go and fetch it,” said Smit, who has made a successful transformation from prop to one of the most highly rated hookers in the sport.

“You can’t wait for it to happen.”

Smit said that winning on Saturday would bring to a climax a four-year project that started after the debacle of the 2003 campaign, where coach Rudolf Straeuli—himself part of the 1995 World Cup-winning squad—was ridiculed for sending the team to a boot camp prior to the tournament.

“The spirit now from that of 2003 is like chalk and cheese,” said Smit, who will play for French side Clermont next season.

“It’s incredible to think that we have got to the last week of what we have been preparing for the last four years.

“It’s gone so quickly and there has been a lot hard work, training and sacrifices. But we haven’t come all this way for nothing.”

Part of the great strength of the Springboks outfit this time is the close relationship Smit enjoys with coach Jake White, ever since the latter convinced him to switch positions when he was assistant coach of the under-21 side.

“That was a pivotal moment in my career, because one doesn’t know what might have happened if I had remained at prop,” said Smit.

“Then of course Jake made me captain back in 2004 and that again was a huge vote of confidence in me and I hope I have repaid it,” added Smit.

Smit it was who stood up for his embattled coach when White was recalled to South Africa during last autumn’s tour of the northern hemisphere and looked set to be sacked—with only a win over England at Twickenham saving his job.

“I thought it would be crazy to change coaches with only a year to go to the World Cup and I bet people are relieved that he wasn’t ousted.

“His record speaks for itself.”

Smit—who flanker Bobby Skinstad says is the finest captain he has played under and an inspiration to the younger players in the team—admitted that the rest of the team were playing their part in keeping his feet on the ground.

“My role is to keep the players calm, but they seem to be keeping me calm,” said Smit.

“It’s the biggest game of our lives so the guys are tense and want to play.”

While Smit says he wants to add to his 74 caps after the World Cup, there is a feeling that should he lift the Webb Ellis trophy he will bow out just like White—on top of the world.—Sapa-AFP

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening.  Read more from Pirate Irwin

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