Smith injury 'massive setback' - Heyneke
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has called the news that Bok flanker Juan Smith is out for the year “a massive setback” for the national team.
Smith missed last year’s Rugby World Cup because of an Achilles strain and has played no part in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby tournament either because of the same injury.
Smith saw his physicians on Tuesday afternoon when it was decided he should take an “indefinite break” from training in order to get the injury 100%, which means no rugby for the rest of the season.
The big flanker was one of the captaincy options for Meyer for the England series, and his experience in a Bok set-up was also something that the new Bok coach would have wanted.
But with so many good flankers coming through the ranks in Super Rugby, while Smith will be missed, it opens up an opportunity for other players to stake their claim.
Meyer said he was sad to lose “one of the best loose forwards in the game.”
“To lose someone with Juan’s experience is always a massive setback,” the Bok coach said, “He’s been one of the standout Springboks for the last seven or eight years and can be considered as one of the best loose forwards in the game.
“Luckily we have an abundance of loose forward talent in South Africa and while it’s impossible to replace his experience and leadership abilities, I’m confident we have the right players here to fill the void.
“I’d like to wish Juan a speedy recovery and I really hope we see him back in action sooner rather than later.”
Meyers views were also echoed by Bulls captain Pierre Spies, who formed a potent loose trio with Smith and Schalk Burger over the past seven years.
“It’s a tough call, injuries are part of the game. It just shows you that while you’re playing the game you need to make the most of it. You have to use the opportunities and I’m sure there is a lot of talent coming through. That’s part of the game, but its tough on Juan,” Spies said.
Earlier Smith told Die Volksblad that after four operations he wanted to ensure he was 100% over the injury before coming back
"The right thing to do now is to give my injury sufficient time to heal 100%," said Smith.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske told the newspaper he was shattered by the news.
"Juan is the best No 7 flank in world rugby. He was also our captain over the last few years and to lose him is a huge setback.
"It will be really difficult to replace a world class player like him."