Smit’s painful end to year

John Smit’s magnificent year ended with injury.

The Springbok captain, who played 44 successive test matches before succumbing to a hamstring injury in the 2007 Tri Nations and then played all seven World Cup matches, was playing for French club Clermont within a fortnight of the World Cup final.

Smit confirmed to that he tore medial knee ligaments in training on 31st December and will be out for between six and eight weeks.

“The good thing is there will be no surgery required,” Smit told

The Bok captain, who has alternated with Pumas hooker Mario Ledesma at Clermont, is in desperate need of a break after the the emotional intensity of 2007 and the injury could prove a blessing.

Smit spoke highly of Clermont’s professionalism and was enthusiastic about the 2008 season.

In London, the Daily Telegraph named former Stormers and Springbok scrumhalf Neil de Kock as the best player in England on current form.

The paper’s rugby experts said De Kock had transformed Saracens and was so influential he was a unanimous player choice as captain for the season. They lamented the fact that De Kock was not eligible to play for England.

De Kock, who has played 10 times for the Springboks, said the Boks remained his passion and he hoped to again play for South Africa.

Brent Russell, who experienced a disappointing two seasons in Cape Town, has also made a positive impression at Saracens.