VIDEO: John Smit's surprise choice as 'best Bok captain'
IN CONVERSATION WITH BARNEY THE BARFLY: John William Smit is a World Cup-winning Springbok captain, but has named one of the most unlikely players as the best captain he played under.
Smit, who led South Africa to victory over England at the 2007 World Cup Final in Paris, spoke to historian and author Dean Allen – as part of a hugely popular weekly fund-raising effort for the Chris Burger and Petro Jackson Players Fund.
Smit, having captained the Springboks in 83 of his 111 Tests, had a 65 percent success rate to go with the Webb Ellis Cup.
As a leader, he is rated amongst the best.
He admitted his choice as the best captain he played under is from the left field.
Andre Neal Vos, who captained South Africa in just 16 Tests, is the man nominated by Smit as the best.
“There have been some amazing [Springbok] captains over the years,” Smit told Dean.
“Our former [Players’ Trust] Chairman Morné du Plessis was great,” he said of the man who lost just two of his 15 Tests as captain.
Smit opted to focus on only the captains he played under and admitted his answer will surprise many.
“When I started in 2000, I was led by a guy called Andre Vos,” the 42-year-old said.
“Andre Vos, for me, epitomised the kind of leader I wanted to become.
“He was unbelievably consistent, he was just a good human being.
“He got dealt a pretty tough set of cards when he was relinquished of the [Bok] captaincy in 2001,” Smit said of then Bok coach Harry Viljoen’s decision to name Bobby Skinstad skipper in place of Vos.
“The way he handled it, for me, was amazing.
“I will never forget, going to knock on his door and check how he was doing. He had these pages with all these peoples names and numbers. He received so many calls from all over. He couldn’t answer the phone because he was training or busy with media. He wrote down every single name and made sure he got back to them in the course of the week.
“For me, Andre Vos was just a warrior. He led from the front, he never-ever backed down and he never expected anything from anyone else he wasn’t willing to do himself.”
Smit also shared two of his worst refereeing experiences – both as a Bok skipper.
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The one is the notorious Paul Honiss incident of 2004.
After the New Zealand match official, Honiss, told Smit to go speak to his team – following a number of infringements close to the Bok line – Honiss allowed Ronan O’Gara to take a quick tap and score a try that proved crucial in a 17-12 win for Ireland at Lansdowne Road.
“I sort of understand the pressure of Lansdowne Road and sort of caving in to that local crowd,” Smit said.
“The following year we [Honiss and I] made peace.
“It [the incident] was early in the game and we could still have won that game.”
However, without doubt, Smit’s worst refereeing experience was the 9-11 World Cup quarterfinal loss to Australia in 2011 – when another New Zealand official, Bryce Lawrence, had a shocker that caused the ire of the entire South Africa.
Lawrence would later retire from refereeing because of the pressure.
“I have had a good rapport with all the refs,” Smit said, adding: “It is a difficult job. Refereeing is a difficult job to do 100 percent, just like playing a game of rugby.
“There are so many rules, there are so many things that you miss.
“[In] 2011, in that quarterfinal against Australia, having watched that game again, having doubted myself and the kind of questions that I asked, that was probably the only moment I felt that things were not right.”
Smit also spoke about his now well-document nickname – Barney the barfly.
“The Under-21 team at the Sharks, in 1997/98, one of the players was Trevor Boynton,” he said.
“His nickname was Benny [Stulwicz] in [the TV series] LA Law.
“I was convinced he looked exactly Barney the Barfly from Simpsons, so I started calling him Barney.
“I learnt quickly you can’t change an embedded nickname and from that day I was Barney the Barfly.”
* Don’t miss next week’s episode, when Dean Allen will have the cast of the 1995 World Cup Final on the show – Francois Pienaar, Morné du Plessis, Os du Randt and Joel Stransky. They will celebrate the 25-year anniversary of 1995 World Cup win.
* To donate to the Players’ Fund charity, CLICK HERE!
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