Name: John William Smit
Date of birth: 03/04/1978
Place of birth: Pietersburg
Position: Prop, Hooker
Clubs: Natal Sharks (RSA), Clermont (FRA), Saracens
International Caps: 111
Smit made his international debut in 2000 at the age of 22, establishing himself as a squad member before cementing his place in the starting fifteen. He played in a record-breaking 46 consecutive games for the Springboks between October 2003 and June 2007, in which time he was named South Africa’s captain.
Despite injury worries prior to the tournament, Smit was fit to lead his country to the 2007 Rugby World Cup, co-hosted by France, Scotland and Wales. Advancing from a tough pool group the Springboks overcame Fiji and Australia to set up a grand final date with England in Saint-Denis.
A crowd of more than 80,000 attended the final as Smit drove his side to a hard fought 15-6 victory despite a spell in the blood bin late in the game. He became the second and most recent South African captain to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for the Springboks.
Smit is the most capped player in the history of South African rugby and one of his country’s most successful captains. On his international retirement he has claimed victory in 46 of 64 competitive matches, giving him a win rate of 72%.
"Rugby is a unique sport in that you go to war against each other and then share a beer (or several) and talk nonsense into the early hours with the same guys you have been knocking lumps out of. The Captains’ Dinner will be like that, lots of old friends getting together and having a real good time."
JOHN SMIT (CAPTAIN - SOUTH AFRICA 2007)
Q. You are part of an exclusive group of Captains to have lifted the world cup trophy, who do you think will become the 8th man to join your club and will that happen at this world cup or will Ritchie McCaw be the first man to win the trophy twice?
A. Of course, I would love the fairly-tale of Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers, lifting the Webb Ellis trophy but the odds are on Richie McCaw becoming the first to do back-to-back. What a player, what a legend.
Q. Only four teams have ever won the World Cup, which country outside New Zealand, England, South Africa and Austraila stands the best chance of upsetting the odds?
A. Ireland are dark horses. They are well-coached by Joe Schmidt, whom I spent a year working under at Clermont, and have a big leader in Paul O’Connell.
Q. Who would be your three young stars to watch in the tournament?
1. South Africa lock, Pieter-Steph du Toit, if he is fit. He is an incredible footballer.
2. New Zealand scrum-half, Aaron Smith, who has an unbelievable service and great game management.
3. New Zealand wing, Waisake Naholo, would have been a star, and will be a star once he has recovered from injury.
Q. What was your last meal prior to you becoming a winning world cup captain?
A. Spaghetti Bolognese – the food I always had before a match, carbo-loading
Q. Who was the toughest opponent you faced at a World Cup?!
A. All Black hooker, Keven Mealamu. The harder you went at him, the harder he came back at you. He is roughly my age (36) and still ripping it for the All Blacks.
Q. What’s the one piece of advice you would give a young player?
A. It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.
Q. Who was your boyhood sports hero?
A. Ivan Lendl. I loved watching him growing up when I was really into tennis. I cried every time he missed out on Wimbledon.
Q. If not rugby, what would you have done?
A. I did physiotherapy at the University of Pretoria, which was a way of keeping me in sport so I guess that would have been the career path.
Q. The laws of the game have changed greatly over the years is there anything in rugby you’d change?
A. Bring back rucking.
Q. What's the best and worst thing about retirement from playing the game?
A. The best thing about retirement is the absence of pain on a Sunday morning, while the worst is the absolute frustration of not being able to influence things when you are watching. I am a terrible, terrible spectator.
Q. Why should someone buy a ticket to the Rugby Captains Dinner?
A. Rugby is a unique sport in that you go to war against each other and then share a beer ( or several) and talk nonsense into the early hours with the same guys you have been knocking lumps out of. The Captains’ Dinner will be like that, lots of old friends getting together and having a real good time.