South Africa's World Cup winning captain, John Smit, is today set to become the most capped leader in Test rugby history.
By leading the Springboks for the 60th time, today against New Zealand in Durban, Smit will stand at the top of a list of some of the game's greatest captains. His name will look down on the likes of George Gregan of Australia, England's Martin Johnson and Will Carling, and Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland.
Smit was groomed for the job the moment Jake White took over as Springbok coach back in 2004. Together, they steered the South Africans first to Tri-Nations glory in White's first year and then the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Typically, Smit puts winning another Tri-Nations now ahead of any personal feelings of satisfaction.
Now 31, Smit will move past the record of 59 captain appearances shared by Gregan and Carling. He said: "It has been a huge honour and privilege to be involved with the Boks and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of it all. But we have the task of beating the All Blacks and that is what we are focusing on. But it will be nice to break the record on my home ground, at the Absa Stadium."
Smit is a widely respected player and leader, as All Blacks coach Graham Henry made clear. "He's a very fine player. He's highly respected by his players and he's a good bloke."
But Smit will know better than anyone to beware plaudits from New Zealand rugby men. After their 28-19 defeat in Bloemfontein last weekend in the first of these two Tri-Nations games, the All Blacks are desperate for a win this time.
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