‘Smit needs to be sharper’

Os du Randt says the Springboks require an improved mental showing from John Smit at scrum time.

According to Du Randt, one of Smit’s shortcomings is his mental strength at the scrum during the closing stages of a Test. It’s something Smit has looked to improve in the break between the Newlands Test and the game in Perth. Du Randt, Smit’s former front-row partner, believes he should be sharper come Saturday.

‘The Wallabies pack will feel they are on top since the last Test in Cape Town,’ Du Randt told keo.co.za. ‘They will see the scrum as a focus point to attack and John should be more concerned about that.

‘John should be mentally sharper. It’s a huge step from hooker to tighthead, and the process is not yet complete. He’s just lacking mental strength.

‘Look at all his games at tighthead and you will see he battles in the final minutes. At the Sharks, they normally substitute him in the 60th minute, so he’s not used to playing a full game.

‘After the Wallabies Test, he spent some time with me on my farm the following weekend. We discussed his scrumming. I don’t criticise his game, I tell him where he can improve. I think he will be ready, especially after the three-week break. There’s enough experience around John in the pack to teach him to rectify his mistakes.’

Since Smit’s transition from hooker to tighthead in November last year, he has been able to hold his own. He was, however, exposed once in the Super 14 when Waratahs loosehead Benn Robinson outscrummed him.

Du Randt said that moment was a key point in Smit’s career.

‘In the Waratahs game, he battled against Robinson. I think that match was a learning curve for him and he has learnt a lot since then.

‘John is getting mentally stronger to meet the standards required at the top level.’

He also added that Smit’s leadership is invaluable.

‘The team can’t go without John, I think he’s an inspirational captain and he does everything we ask from him at tighthead.’

The former loosehead also believes that coach Peter de Villiers should give Jannie du Plessis a place on the bench to cover Smit in the latter stages of the match.

‘I think Peter should bring Jannie on in the 60th minute. It’s a good thing when John comes off that we have a guy like Victor Matfield on the field to lead the team. That way we won’t lose momentum.

‘But Jannie must know that his job is to steady the scrum, especially in the final minutes. He must help set a platform for the team to win the game.’

Du Randt feels with Smit’s new focus and Juan Smith’s recovery from an ankle injury, the Springboks will be a force in the scrums.

He felt the loss of Smith early in the second half at Newlands was also a setback at scrum time.

‘Although Juan’s a flank, he contributes a lot to the scrums. I’m not saying that the other guys don’t scrum, but just look back to the stage where he went off. From then we started to battle a bit in scrums. Juan puts a lot of work in from his position.

‘With Juan on the field and John sharp, I don’t think there will be any problems.’

By Gareth Duncan