Juan Smith makes remarkable comeback to Springbok squad

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18 months after being told that he should retire from rugby, back-row forward Juan Smith was today recalled into the South Africa squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship.

It is a remarkable turnaround for a man who has seen his career blighted with injury. After the latest setback in February 2013, it was recommended he should retire. Last season, however, he was taken on by Toulon as a medical joker and became an integral part of the team that won the Top 14 and the Heineken Cup.

Smith has been called up as a replacement for Victor Matfield, who has been ruled out of the Boks’ opening game against Argentina on August 16th, so it is likely that he might be pressed into action as a lock, rather than back-rower where he spent most of last season for Toulon.

“Our need at this stage is to draft in a player who can cover lock and loose forward, and we feel Juan is the right man for the job,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said. “He has played lock before in his career and won an Under-21 World Cup in that position, but he also covers flank and No.8.

“I spoke to him on various occasions and he’s comfortable with playing in the second row again if the need arises. However, as a number of our loose forwards have had a very high work load this season, it’s good to have someone such as Juan who can also provide cover in those positions.

“Furthermore he is a brilliant exponent in the line-outs 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. Juan has been in sublime form and recently won the very tough French Top 14 league and the Heineken Cup with Toulon. I’ve always held him in very high esteem and I know he will add value to our squad.”

Elsewhere, Colin Slade has been called into the New Zealand squad to cover for his injured Crusaders teammate Dan Carter, who will be out for four weeks after fracturing his right fibula in the Super Rugby final at the weekend.