Smit can't wait to hit the field with Lions
JOHANNESBURG - All that Roelof Smit wants to do is smell the grass, and also feel the pain of a big clean-out. In fact he just wants to get some game time and he hopes his move from the Bulls to the Lions will allow him to kick-start his career again.
The 26-year-old specialist openside flank has joined the Joburg Super Rugby team ahead of the 2020 competition after falling out of favour with the Bulls ... and that just a year or so after he was regarded as one of this country’s hottest prospects.
Smit was frank in discussing his frustrations over the last few years when he addressed the media at a Lions training session this past week.
“I didn’t play at the Bulls. They didn’t back me, and I didn’t get game time in the last year,” said a smiling and happier Smit after a tough 2019 season.
“Yes, there have been injuries here and there, mostly just when I was getting into the Springbok mix, and that set me back, but I’m here at the Lions because of how I was treated this year.
"There was no communication with me (from team management). Of course I had an expectation (going into the 2019 season) because I know what I can do.
"I want to work hard, I know where I can end up; I just want to literally sacrifice my body and play rugby and do what I’m here for. I want to serve the team, and at the Bulls I didn’t get that opportunity,” he added.
Smit enjoyed a breakout season in 2016 and was called up for the Bok tour of Europe at the end of the year but before he could earn a Test cap he was struck down by an injury. He also had an interrupted 2018 season because of another injury. This year he fell behind the likes of Ruan Steenkamp and Marco van Staden in the pecking order.
“I already love it here (at the Lions); it feels like I’ve been here for three years,” said Smit.
“I’ve got no real expectations ahead of the next season except that I just want to play some rugby. I so badly just want to smell grass again, and have that feeling at the breakdown ... that that guy cleaned me out so hard.”
Smit said the Lions - under new coach Ivan van Rooyen - were pushing him hard at training. And with Kwagga Smith no longer around - he’s playing in Japan - the Lions No6 jersey is certainly up for grabs.
“The fact the Lions played in three Super Rugby finals just recently gives me a lot of confidence,” he said “It tells me they work hard here, and believe me I know that. But it’s not only physically, but mentally, spiritually, and emotionally as well ... they work, especially physically.
"I’m happy and feel like I’m growing as a player again. I felt I’d hit a plateau at the Bulls, but that happens after nine straight years at one union.
"You do get into something of a comfort zone, and leaving it can possibly be the best thing. Hopefully it’ll be good for me. I can sense they’re pushing me hard here, to be the best No 6 flank I can be, and that’s hugely encouraging.
"I badly want to get to the very top again, so I’m not complaining that they’re working me hard,” he said.
The Lions wrap up their pre-season programme next week and return to training in the week after New Year.
Their first match of the 2020 Super Rugby competition is against the Jaguares on February 1.@jacq_west