John Smit says while there may be some fun and games in the lead-up to tonight’s charity match against the Sharks at King’s Park; he insists that come kick-off, “Barney’s Army” will be ready to go to battle.
The game marks the launch of the John Smit Foundation, a charitable trust set up to assist some of the former Bok and Sharks captain’s chosen charities: the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Fund, the LIV Village and the Bobbi Bear Foundation.
So there is no doubt that the match will be played in good spirits as an impressive line-up of past and present players form part of an experienced team that has been dubbed “Barney’s Army” in reference to Smit’s nickname.
At a practice session at the Shark Tank on Thursday, there was some inevitable goofing around before legendary former Natal coach Ian McIntosh got his troops in order.
Afterwards, Smit said they were determined to give a good account of themselves against a Sharks side that will be using this game as part of their preparation for next month’s Super Rugby encounter against the Bulls.
“It may be relaxed now, but I know these guys will get competitive as soon as that first contact is taken. We’ve got a good bunch of players with a lot of skill and experience, but I doubt we’ll have much structure to our game, so we’ll see how it unfolds,” Smit added with a wry smile.
While it is also Smit’s farewell to the Mr Price King’s Park faithful, he said the primary focus was to raise funds and awareness for a good cause.
“It’s really important to give back to charities and the ultimate prize would be to have a full stadium coming out in support.”
McIntosh, who first called Smit up to play for the Sharks as a fresh-faced youngster just out of school, said they had always known he would go on to become an exceptional player.
“As soon as he arrived we knew he was something special and brought him straight into the squad. He came on as a replacement against the British and Irish Lions (in 1997) and made his mark straight away. Afterwards, (England front-row legend) Jason Leonard asked me: ‘Who is that youngster? He’s got a great future ahead of him’.”
Meanwhile, there will be a number of interesting innovations in tonight’s game, with both Smit and referee Mark Lawrence set to be mic’d up in order to interact with the SuperSport commentators, while there will also be a microphone and camera in the coaches’ box.
A “scrum cam” has also been installed in the ground in the hope of being able to get some new insight into rugby’s dark art.
BARNEY’S ARMY – STARTING LINE-UP: 1. Martin Scelzo – Argentina – 59 caps, Agen (French club), 2. John Smit – Springboks 111 caps, Saracens, 3. Faan Rautenbach – Springboks (2002 – 2004) 14 caps, London Irish, 4. Jason White – Scotland – 77 caps, ASM Claremont Auvergne, 5. Victor Matfield – Springboks 110 caps, retired, 6. Julian Salvi – ACT Brumbies, current club Leicester Tigers, 7. Francois Louw – Springbok – 10 caps, Bath, 8. Shaun Sowerby – Springbok – 1 cap, Toulouse, 9. Mark McMillian – Bath, 10. Butch James – Springbok 42 caps, Lions, 11. Joe Maddock – NZ Maori – 8 caps, Saracens, 12. Marius Joubert – Springboks 30 caps, Sharks, 13. Matt Banahan – England 16 caps, Bath, 14. Brent Russel – Springboks 10 caps, ASM Claremont Auvergne, 15. Percy Montgomery – Springboks 102 caps, retired
RESERVES: 16. Peter Dixon – Bath (retired) Previously played for Stormers , 17. Danie Minnie (Sharks XV), 18. Rob Linde former Stormers, – Bayonne Rowing, France, 19. Hottie Louw – Springbok 3 caps, Llanelli (in Wales), 20. Rory Kockott – Castres Olympique 21. Stephen Donald – New Zealand 23 caps, Bath, 22. Stefan Terblanche – Springboks – 37 caps, retired, 23. Heimar Williams (Sharks XV)
1. There is a combined total of 493 Springbok caps in the team including the reserves 2. Francois Louw is the grandson of SA Rugby legend Jan Pickard 3. Nine of the players – John Smit, Shaun Sowerby, Butch James, Marius Joubert, Brent Russell, Percy Montgomery Rob Linde, Rory Kockott and Stefan Terblanche have played for The Sharks.
4. Martin Scelzo of Argentina has played for the South American team in four World Cups – 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.
SHARKS: 1 Dale Chadwick, 2 Craig Burden, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 4 Jandre Marais, 5 Anton Bresler, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Jean Deysel (captain), 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 9 Charl McLeod (vice captain), 10 Riaan Viljoen, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Meyer Bosman, 13 Tim Whitehead, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 15 Louis Ludik
RESERVES: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Gouws Prinsloo, 22 Rosco Speckman