Being a Bull not so weird for Smit anymore

CORNEL Smit (centre) raises his arms in triumph after the Bulls beat Leinster. BackpagePix

CORNEL Smit (centre) raises his arms in triumph after the Bulls beat Leinster. BackpagePix

Published Jun 19, 2024


Ashfak Mohamed

A BORN-and-bred Stormers and Western Province man, it is almost unthinkable that Cornel Smit starred for the Bulls in their epic URC semi-final win over Leinster last Saturday.

Now 26, Smit, who hails from Melkbosstrand, used to idolise Nizaam Carr around the famous Piley Rees Field at Bishops when he was still in junior school – and now they are Bulls teammates at Loftus Versfeld.

Smit made his way to Pretoria in January, with Wandisile Simelane moving south, but had to wait until last weekend’s play-off to feature for the Bulls.

“That’s awesome ... I love Nemo (Carr)! I was in the junior school when he was in high school, so we weren’t actually on the same campus at the same time,” Smit said yesterday, ahead of Saturday’s URC final against Glasgow in Pretoria (kick-off 6pm).

“He was a huge hero of mine, making SA Schools in his Matric year, and I wanted to be just like him.

“Coming here, we’ve got a very strong bond and get along very well, and it’s cool that we come from the same school. Who would’ve thought two Bishops boys would end up playing for the Bulls in Pretoria.

“It’s amazing how quickly things change. Growing up, the family are huge fans of Western Province and the Stormers. But I think it was time for me personally to put that aside and try to focus on what was best for my career.

“It’s a bit weird thinking that I have just played for the Bulls in a semi-final, and we’re getting ready for a final – it’s an amazing experience.”

Smit was on the bench last weekend following injuries to Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie, and was called on to make his Bulls debut in the 55th minute for the injured Willie le Roux.

Devon Williams shifted to fullback and Smit slotted in at left wing, and made tackle after tackle and some strong carries to help Jake White’s team get over the line in a memorable 25-20 triumph.

Le Roux is in doubt for the final, which could see Smit don the No 11 jersey and Williams at No 15, and it is an opportunity he is relishing.

He pointed out that he had played enough games for the Stormers and WP in the Champions Cup, URC and Currie Cup not to let the occasion overwhelm him.

“It was very special to make my debut, but whatever I can do – whether it’s starting, playing off the bench or not at all,” Smit said.

“Personally, I felt very comfortable last week and really enjoyed it. I will be ready for anything.

“I didn’t play in the 2022 final (for the Stormers against the Bulls). It is a little bit strange coming here and hearing the other side of the story, because my side was just the elation of the win.

“It’s definitely something we do look back to, as a large part of our squad has felt that pain of losing in a final. But like coach Jake (White) keeps saying, we’ve paid our school fees. We’re not dwelling on it, and it’s not like we’re trying to make up for lost time.”