Smit to lead Boks, Rassie to help

Peter de Villiers has confirmed that John Smit will captain the Springboks at the World Cup and that Rassie Erasmus has come on board as technical adviser.

The Bok coach called a press conference on Monday to confirm the appointments of his captain and management staff. Smit will continue as captain with Victor Matfield named as vice-captain. Erasmus has been brought in as a technical adviser and conditioning coach Derik Coetzee is the other new appointment.

That Smit and Matfield will continue in their leadership roles comes as no surprise. Despite the Boks’ shocking run in 2010, it was always expected that De Villiers would persist with his two most experienced players in a tournament as important as the World Cup.

Whether the continued backing of two aging stars will impact negatively on South Africa’s effort in New Zealand is up for debate, and has been up for debate since mid-2010. In fact, the only new and potentially encouraging bit of news to come out of Monday’s press conference was the appointments of Erasmus and Coetzee.

Erasmus has held the post before, having helped the Boks ahead of their 2007 World Cup campaign. He turned down the opportunity to go to the tournament itself because it conflicted with his new commitment as senior professional coach at Western Province.

‘Rassie is passionate and detailed and he’s what we need,’ said De Villiers. ‘Derik will deal with the measurables on the conditioning side, while Rassie will deal with the measurables on the coaching side.’

De Villiers added that the planning camp held over the past two days has been positive, and that Erasmus and Coetzee have already offered some much needed energy and input.

‘You know, you can’t do these kinds of things on street corners. We looked at what we need to do to be successful at the World Cup, and conditioning is a very important area. We also looked at areas like coaching, and obviously Rassie can help in this respect.’

Having worked with both coaches in the build up to the 2007 World Cup, Smit welcomed their appointments.

‘I know both of them pretty well, and I think they will inject some new energy and ideas. Doc Coetzee is the kind of guy that works you hard and has a real eye for detail. And then Rassie is a guy who can provide sublime input in terms of technical stats.

‘Rassie played a big part in our preparation in 2007, and it was a shame he could not come along for the whole ride.’

This will be Smit’s second World Cup campaign as captain. He admitted that over the last year or so, he’s had his doubts about being selected for a tournament that will double as the Springboks’ world title defence.

‘It was much easier last time when we had visions of grandeur and were hoping for the best,’ said Smit. ‘Now it’s about retaining the title, which will be a far greater challenge.

‘I think that being criticised is all part of being a senior player. You are around for a while so all the attention is on you more often than not. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but it will be about hitting form and playing well when it counts.’