Springboks bring back veteran Juan Smith
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa recalled veteran flanker and 2007 World Cup winner Juan Smith on Wednesday, continuing his remarkable comeback after he retired 18 months ago because of a chronic ankle injury.
Smith was drafted into the Springboks squad for the Rugby Championship starting later this month. He played his last test in 2010 and gave up all rugby at the start of the 2013 season because of an Achilles’ tendon injury.
However, Smith recovered from the problem to sign for Toulon in France and won the Heineken Cup and the French league last season.
Normally a flanker, the 33-year-old Smith also covers lock and No. 8. He was called in after second-rower and fellow veteran Victor Matfield was ruled out of the game against Argentina on Aug. 16 with a knee problem.
The return of 69-times capped Smith gives South Africa another experienced World Cup winner to call on in the buildup to next year’s rugby showpiece. Locks Matfield and Bakkies Botha, flanker Schalk Burger, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and center Jaque Fourie have all returned to the international frame under coach Heyneke Meyer.
Meyer said Smith “is a brilliant exponent in the lineouts and will bring experience and leadership to the squad. We wanted to involve him in June as I really want to work with him, but he was not 100% fit and asked not to be considered.”
South Africa opens its Rugby Championship next Saturday against the Pumas in Pretoria. Defending world and southern hemisphere champion New Zealand plays Australia in Sydney the same day.
Smith will join the Springboks in camp in Johannesburg on Thursday, the South African Rugby Union said.