now smit can sleep easier

IN THE past when Springbok captain John Smit had to leave the field due to injury or substitution things often went pear-shaped.

IN THE past when Springbok captain John Smit had to leave the field due to injury or substitution things often went pear-shaped.

Thankfully that is in the past.

Troubled by a hamstring niggle on Saturday against France whom they hammered 42-17 in a once-off Test match, the veteran of 95 Tests decided to call it quits at half-time and was replaced by Chilliboy Ralepelle.

And the skipper will be the first to admit that the team didn't miss a beat in his absence.

"Chilliboy was outstanding. He scrummed very well and was strong with the turnover ball. Every time he plays he gives it his all," Smit said.

Coach Peter de Villiers has been criticised in the past for the way he handles his substitutes, but with the team playing so well as a unit, these days it's an easier task.

"Today was the first time in two years I could make replacements with no worries," De Villiers said after the game.

"It's good to get the younger guys to work with the old hands. Last week against Wales they stepped up and that gave me confidence."

Smit backed up his coach.

"It's always good to see new blood coming through. We are spoilt by the amount of talent we have. We can really choose some deadly combinations and I'm impressed by the new breed of player we are seeing," said Smit.

The skipper also had a word of encouragement for Bafana Bafana ahead of their game against Uruguay on Wednesday.

"We've played second fiddle this week and justifiably so. Just having the World Cup here on African soil is an achievement. We've put our weight behind Bafana and as the host nation there is a lot of pressure on the team but Friday's effort bodes well for the rest of the tournament," said Smit.

Though stung by the heavy defeat, French captain Thierry Dusautoir doesn't believe it to be a train smash.

"It's always tough to lose a game in this way but a year out from the World Cup we can't start questioning things. We are on the right track," he said.

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