Juan Smith is out of the World Cup.
Smith sustained an Achilles injury during the Cheetahs’ Super Rugby campaign and has been in a race to regain fitness ever since. However, on Wednesday an emotional Smith confirmed to the Volksblad that he was withdrawing himself from the squad.
‘I am not 100%,’ Smith said. ‘I won’t be able to give everything and realise I should put my team, team-mates and the Bok fans first. I must stop lying to myself – what I’ve been doing these last three weeks – and realise that I’m not ready.’
The 30-year-old flank conceded that he has trained through considerable pain in recent weeks in the hope of representing the Springboks at his third World Cup. ‘The pain level that I have been practising with was seven out of ten,’ he explained. ‘I really cannot describe how disappointed I am…immensely.’
Smith has been central to the Springboks’ success in the last eight years, his powerful ball carrying and physical defence lending immense impetus to their cause. Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has consistently expressed fears about losing him and now has to attempt to fill the huge void he leaves.
De Villiers has intimated that Danie Rossouw will be the player to step in in the event of Smith’s unavailability. He isn’t short of talented options outside of the Bulls man, with Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel competent replacements. He could also opt to use Schalk Burger in the position, combining him with Heinrich Brussow and Pierre Spies in the back row.