what juan smith said…

In March I interviewed Juan Smith for Varsity Cup. One of the greatest South Africans I’ve ever had a pleasure of speaking to. He was friendly, extremely funny and I only crapped at myself once or two times – Hello00 this is thee Juan Smith I was speaking to. 😛

Anyway, this interview was about his time at Shimlas, but 2011 World Cup came up and he beamed with confidence and undoubtedly told me he would be wearing the no.7 jersey for the Boks once again. I have been a fan for a number of years, so when he withdrew himself from the squad I shed a tear. Though many may not admit this is a great loss for PDivvy’s RWC side – this man’s absence will be felt. Yes we have the likes of Willem Alberts and with the right combination- there’s Jean Deysel as a possible go to person, however this will be a tricky task for SARU.

Here’s out chat

Alumni Q&A: Juan Smith

Thursday, 31 March 2011 14:43

The most underrated member of the all-conquering Springbok teams of 2007 and 2009, Juan Smith also happens to be a true-blue Shimla. We spoke to him about university… rugby… and his future.

A crucial member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup squad, Springbok flanker Juan Smith made his international debut for South Africa in June 2003 as a reserve against Scotland.

The following week he was named in the Boks’ starting XV for the second Scottish Test and later played as the Test No.8 during the 2003 Tri-Nations, also going to the World Cup in Australia when the Boks lost in the quarterfinals to New Zealand.

Today, the captain of the Cheetahs’ name is synonymous with South African – and world – rugby, having won 69 caps and been part of Tri-Nations-winning, World Cup-winning and British Lions-conquering Bok squads.
Having played for the Shimlas up until 2002, he is also a big fan of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International. Currently sidelined with a torn Achilles Tendon, a blow for the Cheetahs and South Africa, we caught up with this former Shimlas to find out how it all began:

(1) Good morning Juan, thank you for taking time to answer these few questions for us. What did you study at Kovsies and why?

“Good morning Kate, only a pleasure. To answer your question – I signed up to do my Bachelor of Education. For me it was the only way I could get into Free State rugby. By no means did I want to be a teacher, but I needed to be a student to get into the rugby system provided by the university. And no I didn’t finish (my studies), because my career with the [then] Cats kicked off, which meant that there wasn’t any more time for studies.”

(2) I was going ask how your class attendance was, but…

“[Laughs] I was never in class I’m afraid! I was always at training if I wasn’t playing. The rare times I was doing none of these activities, I was chilling with my mates at Shimla Park. You could say I was a terrible student [a lot more laughter!].”

(3) Juan, is education not all that important as a professional rugby player?

“Oh no, don’t misunderstand me. Education is very crucial for anybody – a professional rugby player or not. A rugby career lasts for a few years and when that is over it’s important to have something to fall back on. I was fortunate enough to become a Springbok… but not everyone can have that, and even though I didn’t finish my studies I have a farm and butchery. I only have a couple of years of rugby and so my butchery and farm will be my future. I just was never the academic type, but, yes; education is essential.”

(4) When did you decide that rugby would become your profession? Did anyone influence that decision?

“I loved rugby from a young age and had a number of professionals that I looked up to. However, a large part of my decision was influenced by former mentor and University of Free State stalwart, Oom Tat Botha. He encouraged and mentored me; it’s because of him that I made the decisions I made.”

(5) You played in both the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups. Apart from winning the latter, what was the difference between the two campaigns?

“Well, we won the 2007 [much laughter!]. The major differences were the teams. In 2003 we were a bunch of young stars, all new guys that hadn’t played together long. And then in 2004 Jake White selected this team that would later play in 2007 together. That was a crucial thing. By 2007 we had played together for over three years. That made the team stronger as opposed to 2003.”

(6) Tell us about winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup?

“It was unbelievable. It took time to sink in. When the final whistle went we were all just in awe. We knew we had it in us to do it, but that moment it happened it was unbelievable. To be part of the team that achieved that is a highlight of my career. It was quite simply the best experience.”

(7) You have been dubbed as one of the best blindside flankers in the world. What kind of pressure does that put on you?

“It is always nice to be acknowledged like that. Titles like that don’t just come overnight. But I’ve worked hard to be where I am. I’ve always trained hard and always given my best, so to be acknowledged like that makes it all worth it. Yes, the pressure is there because you may not always live up to it, but you work on your game and give it your all each and every chance you get. It’s great to know that when I retire one day I will leave that kind of legacy.”

(8) You are currently injured, missing the rest of Super Rugby, no Currie Cup for you. How are you feeling? Are you worried you might not make your third World Cup?

“It sucks to not be playing of course, and it’s hard to watch from the sidelines, but it is what it is. As for the World Cup, no I’m not worried; not at all. I’ve spoken to coach Peter de Villiers, he says he is happy with the feedback he has been receiving regarding my recovery. So, no; there’s nothing to worry about.”

(9) Back to the Varsity Cup; Shimlas made the semifinals once again, and unfortunately got the beating of their lives from the Ikeys. Did you see this coming (especially seeing as you were there in Cape Town supporting your team!)?

“Not at all. Before that loss I was sure they would go all the way this time. They are a great team; it was difficult to watch them getting hammered like that. Not to take away anything from the Ikeys, they were definitely the team that wanted it most. They played well, utilised all chances from the word go which is what my team failed to do. I am still a proud Shimlas though: watch this team, they have what it takes and only greater things to be expected. Ikeys were just the better team on Monday.”

10) How would you rate the standard of the Varsity Cup for anyone with aspirations to turn professional?

“The Varsity Cup has the quality that most tournaments don’t have. It has become so popular in the last year with great coverage. I’ve watched most of the games and it’s unbelievable exposure for these guys, something we never had. I reckon any club looking for players will definitely look at the Varsity Cup to lure guys. So it’s a great platform for these youngsters to be noticed. I wish we had this. I mean I had a great time at Shimlas, we even won the National Club Champs in 2002, but the Varsity Cup is just on another level – a really great opportunity for up-and-coming pro players.”

by Kate Nokwe

This article is a product of Varsity Cup

almost here

Two months ago I let you in on what I’ve been up to, and assured you that I’ll be back to the usual blogging as soon as I can. After a week of technical difficulties, you’ll be happy to know this my last update before all that is ‘in(TRACK)suits’ resumes.

As you might remember I have been busy with Varsity Cup. A project that introduced me to a number of exciting people. Talented individuals whose careers I’ve followed from TV, Radio and now via Social Media. (I’ve explained what this -project – entails here)

Therefore if you’re keen to read those articles here they are:

Liezel van der Westhuizen

John Dobson

Ashwell Prince

Juan Smith

Kyle Brown

Brenden Nel

Sias du Plessis

Breyton Paulse

My work for Varsity Cup opened another door in the form of sarugby.com. I have been writing Super Rugby Previews for this growing website. A challenging task I tell you. To have to take an in-depth look at a team’s ever changing structure, scrutinize their past performances in order to have a ‘worth-the-read’ preview is one of the few things I’ve never envisioned. Nevertheless, I was only too happy to accept. Once a week “Kate Nokwe reports” appears on the page, I must admit, I get excited each time I see that. Do check them out here, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

In the case you have not been following me on Twitter and we are not friends on Facebook, SuperSport is looking for a female Rugby presenter dubbed ‘Lady Rugga’. SS embarked on a nation-wide journey in search of this vibrate, camera-friendly (and tons of other adjectives) young lady who knows the difference between a ‘tight-head and a maul’. Seeing I grew up in a city that appreciates Rugby, arguable more than it does Football I reckoned I’d give this a try, besides Sports Broadcast is the ultimate dream.

After a nerve-wrecking audition in front of one Derek Alberts, Crystal Arnold and Leigh-Ann Paulick I made the cut and would later be in the 157 ladies who made round one. Saturday 14th came the TOP 50 announcement. A whole day in spasms with nerves I made the cut yet again and will now spend the rest of this week biting the remainder of my nails in hope of a spot in the TOP 12.

For the latest Press Release from SuperSport regarding the competition click on the link and go ‘Lady Rugga’…. Unfortunately the direct link wouldn’t upload.

A great thank you for all the messages of support. I’ll keep you updated on the competition and anything else that might just be in store for this Kat.

Till then…

absolutey. utterly. gutted.

It was destiny. That the greatest captain in green and gold would reach a milestone that only few in the world could ever boast about. These legends, of course, include SA’s incomparable full-back, none other than the retired Percy Montgomery.

I can vividly recall the week the world joined us, as we made a fuss about Monty’s acquisition.It was a first for SA, and we stood proud, in unity, celebrating the greatest of greats.

No one was as pleased as my pastor, Rev Dave Gernertzky. Monty’s boot became a feature in Sundays sermons for an entire season, his love for Monty knew no bounds.

This was it for Smity, this was the moment we will tell our grandkids about. John Smit. Jake White’s protege, the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning captain; would receive the standing ovation from over 94 000 fans as he reaches one of the greatest accolades in rugby history; his 100th cap.

Only God could have orchestrated this meeting, that Smit would earn his glory on home turf. And more fitting was that this would take place in Soweto, with more history than I dare remember.

That FNB Stadium, worldly know as Soccer City – the stadium that hosted the battle between Spain and Netherlands for the ever contested Soccer World Cup Trophy – would host this phenomenon. It was just meant to be.

I can only imagine the atmosphere at the Smit household the morning of this event. One can only envision what was going through the man of the moment’s head during the captain’s run.

Was he calm? Was anxiety the main factor? Or just plain excitement and pure pride? Did the opposition matter at all or only just the reason why all the attention is on him?

Having gone past old City only two hours before kickoff, the atmosphere was electrifying, only I wasn’t to experience it to its core, Dros Pub it had to be. Dressed in my ‘Body Classique Personalised Bok’ jersey I joined the predominant male species.

As he (Smit) walked in ahead of his mates, I’ve never been prouder. I’ve never seen a nation more proud. This is our boy. This is not only his day, but OUR day too.

As we stood, I swear the balding man across our table’s stained-with-tears-face reflected Smity’s. We raised our beer glasses (ok mine had something else), lumps in throats, there really were no words.

By the end of the first half, it seemed the Boks would (prematurely) hold the Kiwis from claiming 2010 Tri-Nations (Not today Haka boys, Schalla and (Juan) Smith’s play demonstrated such).

Title lost to the Boks, pride was on the way and Smity would get his day with absolutely no hindrance, for it is meant to be.

And then, *sigh* then two minutes remaining, it all went sour, particularly for Smit as he missed an all important tackle that simply crushed an entire nation.

Blackstars’ humiliation at the hands of Suarez surely was not this excruciating. Bafana’s crushed dreams by Uruguay was somehow expected. But this? It couldn’t be! Surely Nigel Owens blew his Welsh whistle a tad bit early.

Someone tell him his watch is wrong! Tell him Smity has paid his dues and he has a legitimate claim! Play on! Somebody! Anybody…?

It was all over. Smity wasn’t to reign (Not today Ole Ole boys, Richie McCaw’s grin seemed to say), like Monty’s 19-0 defeat, they will be no victory.

What was suppose to be the greatest day of his life turned into an ‘I will be disappointment for a long time’ (Smit, at a presser’) Maybe Sharks victory was for their captain, but man, if ever there was an irony…

Pierre Spiers summed up the day with this tweet:

“Not nice but that’s sport…we leave it all on the field. Proud of our boys and well done to the All Blacks. Well done John Smit you legend!”