Smit unfazed by record
July 31, 2009
John Smit will give a captain's address for the 60th time on Saturday © Getty Images
John Smit will be putting his own personal achievements aside tomorrow as he leads the Springboks for the 60th time.
The Sharks prop will surpass England's Will Carling and Australia's George Gregan as the most capped captain in history when he takes the field at his home ground, Kings Park, tomorrow. But the 31-year-old is putting the milestone to the back of his mind as he chases an all important second consecutive victory over New Zealand.
"It's quite a nice moment" he said. "I know it's been the talking point this week, but I don't want it to be. It's a nice thing individually but it creates side-shows and distractions to what we are going to achieve on Saturday as a team.
"I've tried to think about it as little as possible. I probably wouldn't know how many caps I have overall, if I had to be honest. I'm not very clued up about those things."
The answer to that question is 85, a remarkable figure for a man who has plied his trade in the front-row, first as a hooker before switching to prop after he returned from a stint in France with Clermont Auvergne. He skippered the 'Boks to the 2004 Tri Nations, the 2007 World Cup and was at the helm as his charges took the 2009 Lions series.
Smit knows that the All Black side that his men will face in Durban will be stronger than the one that went down 28-19 last week in Bloemfontein, and he says that this year's back to back Tests give the side a different challenge than they've had in the past.
"We can take for granted after last week's game that they are never going to be satisfied after last week's game and there will be a backlash from them," he said. "Them not being themselves last week is something we have factored into our build-up. All three teams have done what they need to from a technical point of view. Winning two in a row against the All Blacks is paramount to the sort of success we hope to have in the Tri-Nations.
"I don't think there are much greater challenges than facing the All Blacks two weeks in a row and it used to be norm some time back. People sitting on their couches are saying this is what Test rugby should be about. It's way to early to talk about a clean sweep. Every team in this competition wants to make sure they don't falter on their home games."
Meanwhile, All Black skipper Richie McCaw believes that his troops need to cut out the early mistakes in order to leave South Africa with a win. The New Zealand talisman knows his side have been off the pace in a campaign that has seen them struggle past Australia in Auckland before losing in Bloemfontein.
"I think last week it was just mistakes that we made" he said. "I think in the first game against the Aussies we were just off the pace physically. We failed a few tackles and things like that and that allowed them to get on top of us before we got back into the game." "Last week, we started off maybe over physical and gave away a couple of penalties that caused us to be at the wrong end of the field. We've just got to make sure we start with that real physical edge.
"We've got to be pretty calm and not give away silly penalties or make silly mistakes, which allows the pressure to build on you. That's something we'll emphasise. We have certainly addressed it."