Smit returns to lead Boks against Italy

John Smit has recovered from his hamstring injury and will lead the Springboks on Saturday in the second Test against Italy, at the Buffalo City Stadium in East London.

Smit’s inclusion at hooker is one of seven changes to the starting team – five new players and two positional switches – that beat Italy by 29-13 in Witbank last weekend. There are a further six changes on the bench.

Speaking at a press conference in East London today Smit said he was excited to be back at the helm.

“It is important for us to refocus for Saturday’s Test,” Smit said.

“It is quite strange to be watching from afar one week and then be back in the thick of things the next. We have a good team and have to make sure that what we do in training translates on the field on match day. We had a good session on Monday and an even better on today and we have to carry that attitude into the game on Saturday,” Smit said.

With Victor Matfield getting a break this week, Andries Bekker is back at lock for his first Test of 2010, while Schalk Burger is also fit again and takes over at flank in the place of Dewald Potgieter.

The only players that started the first Test against Italy and are selected in the same positions, are Bryan Habana (left wing), Morne Steyn (flyhalf), Ricky Januarie (scrumhalf), Pierre Spies (No.8), Francois Louw (flank), Bakkies Botha (lock), Jannie du Plessis (tighthead prop) and Gurthro Steenkamp (loosehead prop).

Gio Aplon moves from right wing to fullback and Jean de Villiers from centre to wing, while Bekker, Burger, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh and Smit will all get their first start against Italy this season.

BJ Botha, Danie Rossouw and Wynand Olivier have been included on the bench after not featuring in Witbank.

Matfield, Zane Kirchner, Bandise Maku, CJ van der Linde, Alistair Hargreaves, Ryan Kankowski and Bjorn Basson drop out of the 22.

Asked if the Boks’ mental approach for a lower ranked team was any different, Smit replied: “It is important that we prepare the same every week regardless of who we play. We concentrate on what we do well and on how we want to play. We have to fix some of the problem areas from last week but generally we want to make sure we are good in all departments.”

Smit expressed appreciation for the support of the East London community after hundreds of people turned out to watch the open training session at Grens High School on Tuesday.

“The buzz was massive at today’s session. It shows how much people appreciate the fact that Test rugby has come to their city and it is important that we make time to meet people and sign autographs.”

The Bok 22 to face Italy boasts a total of 732 Test caps, with 545 caps amongst the run on XV.

The Springbok team is:
15 Gio Aplon ( Stormers) – 3 caps
14 Jean de Villiers ( Western Province) – 57 caps
13 Jaque Fourie ( Stormers) – 56 caps
12 Juan de Jongh ( Stormers) – 3 caps
11 Bryan Habana ( Stormers) – 59 caps
10 Morne Steyn ( Bulls) – 14 caps
9 Ricky Januarie ( Stormers) – 43 caps
8 Pierre Spies ( Bulls) – 30 caps
7 Francois Louw ( Stormers) – 3 caps
6 Schalk Burger ( Stormers) – 56 caps
5 Andries Bekker ( Stormers) – 21 caps
4 Bakkies Botha ( Bulls) – 66 caps
3 Jannie du Plessis (Sharks) – 15 caps
2 John Smit (Sharks, Captain) – 95 caps
1 Gurthro Steenkamp ( Bulls) – 24 caps
16 Chiliboy Ralepelle ( Bulls) – 11 caps
17 BJ Botha (Ulster) – 21 caps
18 Danie Rossouw ( Bulls) – 48 caps
19 Dewald Potgieter ( Bulls) – 4 caps
20 Ruan Pienaar (Sharks) – 39 caps
21 Butch James (Bath) – 36 caps
22 Wynand Oliver ( Bulls) – 28 caps

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