DURBAN: 200612 Former Springbok Captain John Smith. PICTURE: GCINA NDWALANE

International rugby players arrived in Durban on Wednesday for the much-anticipated clash between the Sharks and “Barney’s Army” in John Smit’s tribute game on Friday.

“We are going there to win even though The Sharks are better prepared than us,” Smit joked.

The match will launch the John Smit Foundation.

Smit was nicknamed Barney in his youth because of his resemblance to the Simpsons cartoon character Barney Gumble – Homer’s best friend and the town drunk! Others say he was called Barney because of his large stature and warm nature.

He said he would be playing at the stadium that “made him” for the last time.

“I have been playing at Kings Park for 15 years. It feels so good to be home in Durban… getting back to my mates. Even though I will be playing against them tomorrow (Friday), it is still good to see them,” he said.

Smit, 34, said Friday’s game was about raising funds for charity.

“All the money spent on tickets will go to charity,” he said with a big smile.

He has assembled a world-class rugby team of international stars for his “army”.

Three charities will benefit from the event.

They are the Bobbi Bear Foundation, Chris Burger-Petro Jackson Players’ Fund and The LIV Village.

“This is all about helping children. I was lucky and fortunate enough to go to a good school. I have had a chance to make money playing rugby, and I am trying to help children.”

He added that it would feel “weird” and “interesting” to play against the Sharks.

Asked how he felt about his nickname Barney, he said: “I am not happy with it, but I have been stuck with it for a long time. You do not choose your nicknames.”

The former captain said he had no regrets about moving to England and playing for Saracens.

“I get to spend a lot of time with my family now. I have got one more season left at Saracens. Beyond that I do not know what I will do, but I will make a decision in six months.”

Asked if he would consider coaching, he said: “I am not convinced that I would want that, as yet.”

Barney’s Army will have a training session on Thursday before clashing with the Sharks on Friday.

Meanwhile, news broke on Wednesday night that the Sharks’ mascot, Sharkie, had been kidnapped by Barney’s Army and would only be released for a ransom (which would go to charity). Failing a pay-out, he would be sent to Loftus Versfeld to be made into shark fin soup. - The Mercury