Juan Smith, the star flanker for the Springboks, has withdrawn his availability for selection for the World Cup squad. If Boks fans hadn’t turned to drink yet, this news may just make them reach for something a little stronger. By STYLI CHARALAMBOUS.
The player effectively fell on his rugby sword by removing himself from contention after failing to recover from a serious Achilles heel injury. After turning out for provincial team the Cheetahs this past weekend, Smith decided he would not be fit enough to join his teammates in New Zealand.
“Juan had been in a race against time to be fit and we were keen to give him every opportunity to prove himself available,” coach Pieter De Villiers said in a South African Rugby Union statement.
A fully fit Smith would have been a huge boost to the Boks chances of becoming the first team in history to retain the Webb Ellis trophy. Smith, a part of the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup winning side and with 69 tests under his belt, would be sorely missed at the 9 September – 23 October rugby showpiece, said de Villiers.
“I’ve worked very hard to get back on the training field but I’m still some way from full fitness and have been training with quite a lot of pain. I’d been trying to tell myself that I’d come right but that wasn’t going to happen.
“This is a huge blow to me. The rugby world cup is the pinnacle of any player’s career and I was looking forward to our attempt to become the first team to win the title in successive tournaments,” Smith said in the statement.
The Springboks take on Wales in their world cup opener on 11 September in Wellington. DM
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