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John Smit captained South Africa a record 83 times, more than twice his nearest rival, and led the Springboks to their second Rugby World Cup win in 2007. He was also captain when South Africa claimed the 2004 Tri-Nations title – the team’s first major trophy since 1998 – and again in 2009. In the same year, Smit’s Springbok team recorded a 2-1 series win against the British and Irish Lions.
A tight-head prop in his early years at the Natal Sharks, Smit moved to hooker at the turn of the century and was rewarded with his first Springbok cap six months later, as a replacement against Canada in East London.
Smit made a total of 111 test appearances for the Springboks, 13 as a prop after briefly reverting back to his original position in 2008-09. He retired from international rugby after captaining South Africa at RWC 2011.
When you start out as a Springbok, it’s about proving you’re good enough to be there. But as you play more tests, that feeling dissolves and you realise it’s not about you, it is about standing up to the responsibility of what this team means to your country.