Sharks

Smit ready to make history

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Sharks skipper John Smit is relishing the thought of becoming the first South African to lift a Super Rugby trophy in the professional era when he leads his team against the Bulls in the Super 14 Final at ABSA Stadium on Saturday.

 

The South African captain has tasted victory before by winning the Tri-Nations with the Springboks at the same stadium in Durban three years ago.

However, it wasn’t the first time that a South Africa side had lifted the trophy. Gary Teichmann, the Natal Sharks’ skipper at the time too, was the first Bok captain to hoist the coveted silverware in 1998.


This time it’s a little different for Smit as he licks his lips at the thought of making history with his Sharks team and showing off the Super 14 trophy for the first time in front of their sold-out home stadium.


“A major aspect going into this game as captain will be the fact that it’s the first time a South African is going to lift up a Super Rugby trophy,” said Smit.


“That will be something to remember, and it certainly won’t be the last time that a South African side will lift it either.


“So to be the guy to lift it up for the first time will be something really special.”


So how will a victory on Saturday compare to winning the Tri-Nations?


“It’s difficult to compare the Super 14 to the Tri-Nations,” said Smit.


“In the Tri-Nations you get four goes. If you can get it right two or three times out of four you have a chance of winning the tournament.


“But in the Super 14 this will be our sixteenth week on the trot and I think any side that can go all the way to get to the final is a huge effort.”


Of course the Super 14 Final has got to be won to actually compare the two tournaments, something the visiting Bulls team are going to make very difficult for the home side.


The men in blue have been in sensational form of late and won’t be taking their foot off the gas by any means.


The first hurdle to cross on the Sharks final sprint to victory would be the dominating forward pack of the Bulls, something that Smit and his troops are all too aware of but confident they can match them up front.


“It’s something we’ve been trying to accomplish against most teams, to set a platform as a pack of forwards,” said Smit.


“I think all the teams in this year’s tournament have had a reasonable amount of success by establishing a platform by having a pack of forwards that gets good launch off first phase and can hold their own.


“When you add all those factors, you also can’t ignore the fact that the Bulls form in their pack in the last three or four weeks has just been magnificent in terms of how they’ve just gained momentum with every week.


“So they certainly have kept the biggest challenge for the last week.”


And what a challenge it promises to be with both sides showing quality displays in the line-out, forward drives and scrums throughout the competition.


Whether the game will be won up front or in the backs, it’s going to be another extremely physical encounter between these two South African franchise heavyweights.


“I think we’ve seldom had clashes between two South African teams that haven’t been physical,” said Smit.


“It’s a lot trickier this time, because at 8am the next day 25 of us have got to catch a bus to Bloemfontein to prepare for the first Test against England.


“So it might add an extra bit of flavour to what might happen should a brawl occur.


“But I’m sure a game of this magnitude won’t amount to that sort of play anyway.”


South Africa coach Jake White will certainly be hoping the expected physicality of the match won’t cost him any of his star players.


It should come as no surprise that the bulk of the Bok line-up will consist mainly of members partaking in the Super 14 Final and injuries will be a major concern leading up to the Bloemfontein clash against England on May 26.


So will coach White be watching the final with his hands over his eyes on Saturday?


“I think he (White) is delighted just as anyone else with two South African sides making the Final,” said Smit.


“I suppose it’s like watching your boy playing his first game of rugby. You want him to do well, but you don’t want anyone to tackle him.


“If the guys have got this far into the final, I’m sure conditioning and all those kinds of things will be part and parcel of a successful campaign.


“It’s certainly something we’ve been working on, and I know it’s something the Bulls pay special attention to as well.


“So injuries are definitely come part and parcel with the game.


“But you just got to keep going because there’s certainly not a lack of players in South Africa at the moment.”


With Smit in the form of his life at the moment, it would certainly be a huge blow should the hooker fall victim to his own words.


By Dave Morris 365 Digital

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