DURBAN — South Africa captain John Smit is confident his experienced team will be able to overcome a recent lack of on-field action and be raring to go when they face Australia in their rugby Tri-Nations showdown today.
Coach Peter de Villiers has named a starting line-up with 810 caps between them, the most in Springbok history, but questions remain over a number of players, who have not seen action since the end of the Super rugby season last month.
However, hooker Smit, who will earn his 105th cap today, believes the side’s collective experience will be enough to offset any ring-rustiness.
“It is a strong team, one of the best we have been able to pick for a while, and yet there are still a few players unavailable, but it’s the best we can do right now,” Smit told a news conference yesterday.
“Hopefully, we can use those guys to step it up and use their experience out on the field.” Smit was part of an under-strength Springbok team which played on the overseas leg of South Africa’s Tri-Nations campaign, where the world champions lost 39-20 to Australia in Sydney and 40-7 to the All Blacks in Wellington.
The squad was missing more than 20 senior players because of injury, leaving Smit to bemoan the lack of experience in his team, admitting it was refreshing to have so many familiar faces around him again.
“It’s been fantastic that I have been able to delegate. We have created an amazing understanding amongst five or six of the guys, in terms of what their responsibilities are on the field and who covers what areas,” he added.
“Hopefully, things will click Saturday (today) like they have for the last five or six years.”
However, Smit highlighted the importance of making a strong start against Australia. “Things can happen pretty quickly in the Tri-Nations. You can’t afford too much time to settle in,” he added.
“I was asked the same question two years ago before the British and Irish Lions series, about whether we were ready to play against a team of that stature. Time will tell, but the first 20 minutes (on Saturday) will be important.”
South Africa went on to win the Lions series 2-1 and Smit will be hoping that the current squad can also rise to the challenge.