Flanker set for dramatic return

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smith jul 23 AFP Juan Smith is set for a dramatic return to the SA rugby team 18 months after injury sidelined him. Photo: Thomas Samson

Cape Town – Flanker Juan Smith is set for a dramatic return to the South African rugby team 18 months after injury forced his premature retirement from the game.

Smith and his Toulon teammates Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana are all to be called up by the Springboks for the Rugby Championship matches over the next three months against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, their French club revealed on their website (www.rctoulon.com) on Wednesday.

The Springbok squad for the southern hemisphere championship is due to be announced on August 2 but Toulon said the trio would be released to play in the six-test competition.

For Smith, who turns 33 next week, it represents a remarkable recovery after he retired from the game in early 2013 after suffering a recurrence of an Achilles’ tendon injury that had plagued him over a two-year period before that.

Smith was injured in the opening Super Rugby game for the Cheetahs against the Bulls in February 2011 and spent two years on the sidelines as he underwent four separate surgeries on his Achilles.

He injured himself again in a comeback friendly before the start of the 2013 season when doctors told him the injury would not heal, leading him to announce his retirement.

He made a surprise return seven months later at Toulon where he passed a medical and was offered a short-term contract.

Smith, whose last test for the Springboks was against England in November 2010, went on to have a stellar season culminating in a try in the Heineken Cup final as Toulon won the European club crown with victory over Saracens, as well as taking France’s Top 14 title.

Smith, who has 69 caps, was part of South Africa’s World Cup winning team in 2007. He also captained the Springboks against the Barbarians at Twickenham in 2010. – Reuters

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