FORMER Springbok captain John Smit could play for the Stormers and make a dramatic return to Super Rugby this year.
Smit, who retired from Test rugby after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, joined English club Saracens after giving long service to the Sharks. But a potential crisis at hooker for the Stormers could see them send an SOS to the 33-year-old Smit for the Cape side’s Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at Loftus on February 22.
The Cape Times understands that star Western Province No 2 Scarra Ntubeni had an operation on a shoulder yesterday that has ruled him out of action for three months.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said last week that Ntubeni was hurt in a training-ground accident in which a teammate had fallen on him, and Ntubeni had landed awkwardly on his shoulder.
It was hoped he wouldn’t require surgery, but Ntubeni, who turns 22 next month, had the operation yesterday.
WP Currie Cup-winning captain Deon Fourie is likely to be the first-choice Stormers hooker and start against the Bulls, but Springbok No 2 Tiaan Liebenberg’s troublesome back injury could bring Smit into the Stormers mix.
Liebenberg sustained his injury during a Currie Cup game against the Cheetahs last October, and is not yet able to take contact. He did attend the Stormers pre-season camp in Hermanus last week, though, and management are hopeful he will be 100% fit to face the Bulls.
But if Liebenberg is not yet ready, it would leave Fourie as the only fit hooker in the squad, and it is believed that Smit’s name has been mentioned in the Stormers camp as a possible recruit on loan should Liebenberg be ruled out. The Cape side do enjoy a good relationship with Saracens, which has seen a number of players move between the two sides.
Smit, who holds the record of 111 Test caps for the Springboks, is the understudy to another Bok hooker, Schalk Brits, at Saracens. Brits returned to the Stormers on loan for the 2011 Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders, but the English club are unlikely to release their No 1 hooker during the European season.
With Liebenberg and Ntubeni not available at the moment, it is believed that last year’s WP Under-19 hooker, Freddie Kirsten, has been called up to train with the Stormers. But Coetzee would probably not risk picking Kirsten on the bench for the Bulls game, as the youngster is yet to play Currie Cup rugby.