John Smit maintained his impressive return to form as Clermont edged within a point of table-topping Toulouse in the French Top 14.
Smit’s form and that of Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery will no doubt please Springbok coach Peter de Villiers. Smit will captain the Boks this year and De Villiers met with Montgomery two months ago to discuss his international future. Both players have responded positively to the new Bok coach’s interest and Smit’s form, in particular, will bring a smile to De Villiers, who won’t have taken much comfort from the first six weeks of South African Super rugby performances.
Smit, speaking to Keo.co.za, said he had fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for six weeks and that being back at peak fitness was critical to his recent performances.
“The mind is strong but equally important is that the body has to be strong. I am feeling really good at the moment, enjoying my rugby and the team is getting good results. I’ve now had six successive matches and in each one the knee has felt better and with each week I have felt I’ve made a bigger contribution to the team.”
Smit said he watched as much Super 14 rugby as possible and was in constant contact with players in South Africa.
“I am following the Sharks very closely and I’ve seen what’s been televised here. The competition seems to be settling down now and despite results not always going the way of the South African teams I still think there has been some very good rugby played by South African sides. Individually there has also been good performances, so I am very optimistic about the international season.”
Smit also singled out Clermont teammate and former Springbok centre Marius Joubert’s performances this season as being special.
“For me he has been the form centre in the competition and consistently the best in France. He has a huge desire to play for the Springboks again and the change of pace in lifestyle seems to have been good for his game. He is playing outstanding rugby.”
Clermont hammered Montpellier 56-17 to consolidate second position in the league, while Montgomery’s outstanding goalkicking has lifted Perpignan into fifth place.
Montgomery kicked three conversions and four penalties in the 45-7 win against Albi.
Toulouse remain top of the table, despite sending a second team to play Stade Francais in Paris, where they got smashed 29-0.
Results of Round 15
Biarritz vs Brive, 10-0
Bourgoin vs Auch, 36-0
Castres vs Montauban, 21-7
Dax vs Bayonne, 11-6
Perpignan vs Albi, 45-7
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier, 56-17
Stade Français vs Toulouse, 29-0
Standings after Round 15
1. Toulouse 58
2. Clermont 57
3. Stade Francais 44
4. Biarritz 41
5. Perpignan 40
6. Castres 40
7. Montauban 35
8. Bourgoin 34
9. Bayonne 33
10. Montpellier 30
11. Brive 27
12. Albi 25
13. Dax 20
14. Auch 10