Juan Smith is lifted into the air by his Toyota Verblitz teammates in Japan. Photo: @toyotaverblitz via Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Legendary former Springbok Juan Smith brought the curtain down on an illustrious career after featuring in his final professional game in Japan this past weekend.

Smith earned 69 Test caps between 2003 and 2010, and while a recurring Achilles tendon injury appeared set to bring his glittering career to a premature end, he fought back to appear in one final Test for the Boks in 2013.

The industrious loose forward formed part of the Springboks’ World Cup-winning team in 2007, while he also started in all three Tests when the Boks claimed a series win over the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

Having torn his Achilles tendon during a Super Rugby match in 2011, Smith was initially forced to announce his retirement from the game in 2013 after repeated surgeries proved unsuccessful.

However, Smith was eventually persuaded to come out of retirement, while making something of a fairytale comeback as he then enjoyed four highly successful years at French club Toulon.

Juan Smith receives a gift from his Toyota Verblitz and former Springbok coach Jake White after playing his final rugby game at the weekend. Photo: @toyotaverblitz via Twitter

Although Smith was expected to extend his career even further with a stint playing for Toyota Verblitz in Japan, he confirmed last week that he would finally be officially retiring due to family reasons.

After playing for Toyota Verblitz in a 33-24 win over the Toyota Industries Shuttles this past weekend, he was given a hero’s send-off by his teammates, while plaudits poured in from around the rugby world.

“An incredible rugby career comes to an end,” former Springbok captain John Smit commented in one message on Twitter. “No one outside of our team will ever know the influence he had on us and the team. Dankie Juan Smith.”

African News Agency (ANA)