South Africa v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, Soweto, August 21
Flynn backs under-fire Smit
August 17, 2010
John Smit (centre) and his front row prepare for a defining contest on Saturday © Getty Images
All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn is backing South Africa counterpart John Smit to come through the storm of criticism he is facing as skipper of the faltering Springboks and prove his doubters wrong.
Smit has come under fire for both his roles in the South Africa team - in the front row and as the leader of the group - after their woeful start to the Tri-Nations campaign. South African media has labelled the 2007 World Cup hero unfit, overweight and off the pace of the high-tempo game New Zealand and Australia have beaten them with.
While he will be hoping to get one over his opposite number on Saturday when the sides meet in Soweto, Flynn praised Smit's pedigree and insisted he still has his place in world rugby.
"The thing that stands out for me about John Smit is his competitiveness," Flynn said. "With all the stuff in the press saying that he shouldn't be there, he's still there and, all going well, he'll notch up his 100th test this weekend. I take my hat off to him, he's a very good player and he sticks it through. He's a big cannon and the fact that he will notch up 100 tests this weekend shows there is obviously still space for that kind of hooker in the modern game."
Flynn, 29, old made his All Blacks debut in 2003 but has only played 11 tests since then, largely due to a horror run of injuries, most notably five arm fractures.
"As far as injuries go, you just can't look too far ahead," he said. "But I feel great at the moment, body and mind, and I reckon I can truck on for a few more years. I guess the one benefit of injuries is that when you come back you're really ready to go."
The presence of stalwart Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore has also meant Flynn's chances have been limited, and tighthead prop John Afoa is also being groomed for a move to the middle of the front row.
"Keven is playing bloody well at the moment and Andrew is a class player whose shoulder reconstruction is, by all accounts, going well. Plus John is coming on as a hooker, he has pretty good attributes for it. If Keven or myself go down, he's the next one in line at the moment. So it's good for the team to have all these options," Flynn said.
The Cantabrian reckons the All Blacks are playing at no more than 75 percent of their capacity and is excited about a crowd of 90,000 bringing out the best in them this weekend.
"It's pretty exciting to be playing in Soweto and being in front of 90,000 people will be pretty special. We've touched on the fact that there will be some people there and they probably won't be shouting for us, so we don't get shellshocked. But playing in front of a loud crowd is special. Here in Africa, every time you play the stadiums are pretty much sold out, and that's what I love. It's going to be really exciting."