Speaking in his final press conference as Springbok captain, John Smit said he won’t allow the disappointment of a quarter-final exit to tarnish his memories.
Smit, capped 111 times for the Springboks, bowed out of Test rugby with a defeat to the Wallabies, but maintained perspective despite his patent deflation.
‘I’m very sad. I wanted to win the final. But it would be silly of me to allow this result to tarnish seven years of great memories. I’m devastated, but I’m blessed. I’m proud to have been a Springbok,’ he said.
‘The important thing is that I had an influence on the guys I played with. If you want to talk about a legacy, I hope that in future years the guys who have played with me will look back and ask: “What would Smitty have done” on and off the field.’
Smit joins Victor Matfield and potentially Fourie du Preez, who told SA Rugby magazine in an interview before the World Cup, that the global showpiece would be his last for the Springboks, as senior players to call time on decorated international careers.
Asked about the impact of those departures on the potency of the Springboks in short-term, Smit said: ‘There are a couple of the boys who are not going to play again, which is sad. But if you look at what their replacements are like, I’m encouraged. Bismarck [du Plessis] will come in for me, Andries [Bekker] will replace Victor. Those are very good players and there are others in other positions.’
Smit was lavish in his praise of vice-captain and long-time team-mate Matfield. ‘Victor has been brilliant as a lineout tactician, but his leadership and how he lifts those around him by his presence cannot be overstated. In my opinion he is the greatest Springbok that ever has been,’ he said.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans paid tribute to the duo. ‘They are two excellent servants of the game. They are best described as men who commanded huge respect from their opponents and there’s nothing better in the game than that,’ he said.