Another head knock could spell the end for Juan Smith’s rugby career.
The robust Springbok and Cheetahs’ blindside has a history of head injuries, the most recent knock ending his Australasian tour. Word from the Cheetahs’ camp is Smith will play next week, but assistant coach Hawies Fourie told keo.co.za Smith, despite all perception, is not invincible.
‘He saw a specialist the other day who gave him the all clear to play the Brumbies. He may not go the full 80, but Juan is a very tough guy mentally. He may last the whole game.
‘It’s a point of concern that he’s sustained so many head injuries. [Former Cheetahs flyhalf] Chris Rossouw had to retire because of a series of head knocks, and Juan can’t be far away from the same fate,’ Fourie said.
‘It is a contact sport, and sometimes these things go your way and sometimes they don’t.’
Smith will lead the Cheetahs against the Brumbies next Saturday, and No 8 Frans Viljoen will also be back in the 22. Viljoen will play 40 minutes in the Vodacom Cup this weekend as part of his rehabilitation.
Fourie said former SA U20 fullback Wilton Pietersen was meant to feature for Free State this weekend, but a recent car accident has ruled out any chance of a comeback. Sadly, Pietersen may never play again after sustaining serious head injuries.
‘I visited him yesterday in ICU and he is fighting for his life,’ Fourie said. ‘When he was awake, he could barely register or understand what you were saying to him.
‘We’re hoping he recovers, but he’ll be lucky if he ever plays rugby again.’
By Jon Cardinelli