Smart Group interviews South African rugby legend John Smit
Ahead of the Rugby Captains Dinner at Battersea Evolution on 16th September 2015, Smart Group has been putting each host captain through their paces, drilling down into their World Cup predications and what makes them tick! This week it’s former South African international John Smit…
Smart Group [SG]: 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?
John Smit [JS]: 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.
SG: Only four teams have ever won the World Cup, which country outside New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia stands the best chance of upsetting the odds?
JS: 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.
SG: Who would be your three young stars to watch in the tournament?
JS: South Africa lock, Pieter-Steph du Toit, if he is fit. He is an incredible footballer; New Zealand scrum-half, Aaron Smith, who has an unbelievable service and great game management; New Zealand wing, Waisake Naholo, would have been a star, and will be a star once he has recovered from injury.
SG: What was your last meal prior to you becoming a winning world cup captain?
JS: Spaghetti Bolognese – the food I always had before a match, carbo-loading
SG: Who was the toughest opponent you faced at a World Cup?!
JS: 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.
SG: What’s the one piece of advice you would give a young player?
JS: It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.
SG: Who was your boyhood sports hero?
JS: Ivan Lendl. I loved watching him growing up when I was really into tennis. I cried every time he missed out on Wimbledon.
SG: If not rugby, what would you have done?
JS: 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.
SG: The laws of the game have changed greatly over the years is there anything in rugby you’d change?
JS: Bring back rucking.
SG: What's the best and worst thing about retirement from playing the game?
JS: 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.
SG: Why should someone buy a ticket to the Rugby Captains Dinner?
JS: 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.
To find out more about the Rugby Captains Dinner and to book tickets click here.