Smit definitely NOT joining Stormers
Former Springbok captain John Smit will definitely NOT play for the Stormers.
This was made clear by Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, who dismissed the notion of an SOS going out to the 33-year-old World Cup winning Bok.
An injury crisis at hooker prompted claims in the Cape Town media that Coetzee could look to Smit, who retired from Test rugby after the 2011 World Cup.
While the Stormers are in the market for an experienced hooker, Coetzee said the SOS would go to a South African-based No.2 – not Smit, who is reportedly departing Saracens for Toulon in France later this year.
Siyabonga Ntubeni, one of the stars in Western Province's victorious Currie Cup campaign, underwent surgery on Tuesday after injuring his shoulder in a freak training ground accident last week – when a teammate landed on top of him.
Springbok replacement Tiaan Liebenberg is making steady progress from his troublesome back injury – leaving WP captain Deon Fourie as the only fit No.2 in the squad.
"Scarra [Ntubeni] went in yesterday [Tuesday] and it [the surgery] has been a huge success," Coetzee said, adding: "I can't wait for the healing process to start."
The Stormers mentor felt it was the right decision to ask for a second opinion – whether the 21-year-old Ntubeni needed to undergo surgery or should be treated conservatively.
"The doctors decided to operate and it has been successful."
Coetzee said Ntubeni could be playing by mid-April or the end of April.
"Tiaan [Liebenberg] is doing really well," the Stormers coach said, adding: "He is not taking contact at this stage, but he is partaking in 60 to 70 percent of all sessions.
"The important thing is to wait for Tiaan to start taking contact, firstly controlled and then in the open environment. The important aspect is conditioning. You can't just come from an injury, being medically 100 percent right, but then the other players are at a different level – ready to play Super Rugby.
"If we are lucky, at a push, we can look at Tiaan to be back by the third week of the competition – that is a conservative projection, but it could be earlier."
Coetzee admitted there is a need for a hooker.
"However, it definitely not John Smit," the Stormers mentor said, adding: "I can announce that it is definitely NOT him.
"I am talking to three guys – for obvious reasons I can't reveal their names. Once the terms have been agreed to I can make the announcement."
He said all three are South African-based and the one who signs will be at training next week.
The Stormers coach said it will be a seasoned hooker of Super Rugby standard.
"In this competition you can't have too many youngsters in the spine of the team – you need two Super Rugby standard hookers and a youngster.
"I am looking for an experienced hooker.
"Yes, availability is an issue, but I am positive it is going well."
He added that while Under-20 hookers Freddie Kirsten and Stephan Coetzee have trained with the broader Stormers squad, you can't have three guys who haven't played Vodacom Cup, let alone Currie Cup and get them to play Super Rugby in such a specialist position.
Springbok veterans Andries Bekker and Schalk Burger are also participating in full training.
However, they will have to play in a pre-season match to book their places in the team for the opening match of the season – against the Bulls in Pretoria on February 22.
"I will look on Monday at which [pre-season] game they will play. They have to play in the warm-up matches or they will not feature against the Bulls [in Round One of the competition]."
By Jan de Koning