Plumtree demands respect for Smit
January 17, 2011
Smit has been tipped for a supporting role with the Sharks in the forthcoming Super Rugby battle © Getty Images
Sharks coach John Plumtree has slammed recent criticism of John Smit and made the Springboks veteran his captain for the forthcoming Super Rugby season.
Former Boks coach Jake White hit the headlines this month by suggesting the 32-year-old Smit should retire but Plumtree believes he is still the right man to lead the Sharks into the new season and will prove his doubters wrong.
"In New Zealand we call it 'tall poppy syndrome', which is basically when the public gangs up on an achiever and tries to cut him down," Plumtree told the Sunday Tribune. "It annoys me that a player can give so much for his country and be so respected among his international peers, yet pick up so much criticism from his countrymen. It is a serious lack of respect.
"The really good players know when it is time to retire, and John is one of the best ever Boks. I have been fortunate to coach some of the best players in the world and John is one of the most competitive of them all. Tana Umaga and Scott Gibbs spring to mind and they are in the same bracket as John Smit."
Smit, who led South Africa to the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has made it clear he will retire after this year's showpiece in New Zealand, had been tipped for a bit-part role in the first season of a re-vamped Super Rugby competition with the likes of hooker Bismarck du Plessis and loose-head Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira and tight-head Jannie du Plessis fighting for starting berths at the Sharks.
But Plumtree insists that Smit has the game and more importantly the desire to play a central role in his side's challenge. "He wants to be the first ever captain to defend the World Cup title, what bigger motivation could there be for him, for goodness sake?" added Plumtree who also revealed that Smit is likely to feature in all three front row positions this season.
"He is the only player in world rugby who can do that and I will have no hesitation in switching him between the three because I know that he will be fit enough to play any of them," said Plumtree.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.