John Smit, the captain of the World Cup-winning Springboks, reflected on some of his interactions with the team and how it handles threats and criticism.
Much of the media attention has been on the death threats that Cobus Reinach, the starting Springbok scrumhalf, has received in the days leading up to South Africa’s Rugby World Cup semifinal matchup versus England in Paris.
A supporter of the host nation of the competition emailed Reinach, a player for French club Montpellier, a threatening Instagram message following last Sunday’s 29-28 quarterfinal victory over France.
John Smit, the captain of the 2007 World Cup-winning team, claimed that baiting the Springboks simply serves to further inspire and excite the group when speaking on the Le Petit Pod podcast.
Smit told the host Alex Payne and former England star Mike Tindall, “We can make a small thing a big thing.”
Who was the dirtiest international player you’ve ever faced, a guy once asked me? Nobody that I can recall ever attempting to hit one of our players.
“They knew they didn’t want to enrage [the Springbok players] any more than necessary, and they were savvy enough to recognize that.
A little bait is loved by South Africans.
As the current World Cup champions, Smit continued, winning in 2019 “wasn’t part of the plan” and that the present coaching staff, who were hired in 2017, was actually working for a victory in 2023.
“This team is way better [than the team from 2019],” Smit continued. “It has interesting backline players, more experience, and a freshness.
They have better connections and have attended the party each time there has been pressure.
Jacques Nienaber, the coach of the Springboks, kept the same lineup from their victory against France. In contrast, England has made three changes from last weekend’s 30-24 triumph against Fiji for this Saturday’s match (kickoff 21h00 at the Stade de France).
Full-back Marcus Smith is replaced by Freddie Steward, loose-head prop Joe Marler is in place of Ellis Genge, and 22-year-old lock Ollie Chessum is filled in for by George Martin.