PRETORIA - The true character and strength of the current Springbok team will face it’s toughest and sternest test in Saturday's Test against the Wallabies according to former Springbok captain John Smit.
Smit, who led the Springboks to glory in winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup, believes that the team’s mettle will be revealed in the face of their strongest opposition after dismantling France three nil in June and putting Argentina away in the first two matches of the Rugby Championship.
In fact, Smit has issued a timely warning to the Springboks not to take the Australians lightly and be prepared to stay in the fight right until the end if they are to add to their already impressive five match winning streak.
Smit says he saw enough of what the Wallabies are capable of in their narrow defeat against the All Blacks in Dunedin and believes that they will be the better for that near victory.
At the same time Smit, ever the optimist, believes that Perth is fertile hunting ground for the Springboks even though they last won in the city riddled with South African expats in 2009 when he captained the side to a 32-25 victory at the Subiaco Oval.
“It’s never easy over there. Our best results against Australia have probably been in Perth but I can’t think of a Test that didn’t go down to the wire, we had to stay in the game for 80 minutes,” Smit said at the launch of the Rugby Centurions initiative in Johannesburg on Thursday
"They are up against it, there’s a big change this weekend. They’ve played against France and Argentina both who are okay teams, there wasn’t a strong France team and the Argies are not what they were last year. We’ve done what we should have done and beaten them convincingly. Five out of five and last year we probably wouldn’t have been here.
"Now we have a team that was also wishy washy last year and they are under the pump and they have also shown that they nearly did the All Blacks in Dunedin. We now have a stern test on our hands this weekend."
Over and above what the challenge that the Springboks will face in an equally resurgent Wallabies side, Smit says this will be a test for the team’s new culture which has been attributed to their resurrection.
Even if the Springboks don’t get over the line, Smit wants to see significant improvements being made in how the team plays, how they handle pressure against a better attacking side and how strong and close the bonds of their culture will hold in the face of adversity.
“We are going to lose another Test, I guess, this year but we are already showing signs that this team has clicked. They know what it takes, they love each other and they are starting to enjoy each other’s company,” Smit said.
"Their next lesson will be when they are faced with proper opposition that will put them in a corner and test them and how they react out of that will be our next to watch and see how they learn."