Smit lures Sarries to KZN
Smit lures Sarries to KZNSHARE
John Smit, the new Sharks CEO, has succeeded in luring English giants Saracens to Durban for an exhibition match.
The Word Cup-winning former Springbok captain, Smit, played for Sarries after he retired from international competition after the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
It was announced on Tuesday that the Lungisisa Indlela Village (LIV Village) will play host to Saracens and local club College Rovers in an exhibition match – scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 14.
The game will take place on a field named after the former Bok skipper and now Sharks CEO, John Smit – which was funded and officially opened by him last year.
The Sharks boss, Smit, said game involving one of Europe's best teams being played at LIV Village is a huge fillip for the rural community.
"It shows the commitment from everyone to not only raise awareness and much needed funding for the children of LIV, but also to showcase rugby in an area that wouldn't usually have such a privilege," said Smit – who is also an Ambassador for LIV.
Saracens have been supporting LIV Village throughout the 2012/2013 season by wearing the LIV logo on the sleeve of their playing jersey.
This match serves to highlight and create awareness of the wonderful work that the village does in providing holistic residential care for vulnerable children and placing parentless children into a family environment where they receive unconditional love, spiritual discipleship, care and nurturing.
The core vision of the village is to rescue a child, restore a life, raise a leader and release a star.
Founder of LIV Village, Tich Smith confirmed that the game has been initiated by Smit and Edward Griffiths, CEO of Saracens. "It will have huge significance in the communities as we see first-class rugby taken to a rural area for the first time," Smith said.
"Both these gentlemen are adamant that they don't just want to speak about transformation but they want to 'do' transformation.
"I believe that the biggest problem we face in this country today is the disparity between the rich and the poor and it's time for those of us 'who have' to go and share what we have with those who 'don't have'.
"This game has already received an amazing reception from Zweli Mkhize [Premier of KwaZulu-Natal] and the local government of eThekwini.
"The significance of this match could be far-reaching as the elite and wealthy stretch out a hand to the poor, destitute, the widowed and orphaned of this nation.
"It will also be significant that eight of the leading schools [Michaelhouse, George Campbell, Maritzburg College, Kearsney, Westville, DHS, Glenwood and Northwood] will play in a Seven-a-side tournament on the day as a curtain-raiser to the main match. This will also be a huge opportunity to identify the rugby talent in KwaZulu-Natal."
The match will also see Saracens play in South Africa a year after a previous attempt by the English giants to host a European Cup encounter with a French opponent at the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point was scuppered by over-zealous controlling officials in Western Province.
That match became a political play-ball in the stand-off between city officials and the rugby hierarchy over the proposal that Western Province and the Stormers move their headquarters from Newlands to Green Point.
While that battle (they call it discussions and negotiations) continues, Saracens have found another city willing to host them in South Africa.
The large contingent of South African players in the Sarries squad – like Schalk Brits, Petrus du Plessis, Alistair Hargreaves, Jacques Burger, Nick Fenton-Wells, Justin Melck, Ernst Joubert, Neil de Kock and Brad Barritt – ensures that the club has a huge following in the Republic and will be a big hit in Durban.
On top of that, former Bok centre Brendan Venter will be involved in the coaching structures of both Saracens and the Sharks – Director of Rugby at the Sharks and Technical Director at Saracens.
Smit, who retired from playing this year before replacing Bryan van Zyl as Sharks CEO, captained Saracens in his last active game.