Smit & Wannenburg break SA Super 14 records

Springbok captain John Smit will become the first South African to play 100 games for a Super 14 team when the Sharks hosts the Cheetahs in round two of the competition.

The 31-year-old Smit will reach the landmark in Durban on Friday and will be joined by Pedrie Wannenberg a day later when the loose forward makes his 100th Super Rugby appearance for the defending Super 14 champion Bulls.

Former South Africa internationals A.J. Venter, Ollie le Roux and Albert van den Berg have all played more than 100 games but for different teams. George Gregan holds the Super rugby record with 136 games for Australian team, the Brumbies.

Smit made his then Super 12 debut in 1999 and, apart from a brief spell at French club Clermont, has spent his entire career at the Sharks.

The Sharks and South Africa captain told the Sharks’ Web site it was an amazing feeling to reach the milestone.

“I missed a season through a shoulder injury and one spent in France and through those things you wonder to yourself where it will all end and to be sitting here now, 31 years old about to run out for my 100th game for the Sharks, I’m pretty proud of that,” Smit said.

“I’m grateful as well, it so easily could have been impossible and here I sit, back from France, captaining the Sharks. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.” The front row forward also holds the world record for the most international caps as captain having led South Africa in 67 tests.

He is the Springboks’ most capped forward with 93 international appearances and captained the country to its second World Cup triumph in 2007, as well as Tri-Nations victories in 2004 and 2009.

However, Smit’s Sharks team has never won the Super 14 title despite reaching the final in 2001 and most dramatically 2007, when it lost to a last-minute try from the Bulls.

“That’s where hunger comes in, not only to win the Super 14 when we haven’t won it but also about the tough training, playing in a team environment,” he said.

“I enjoy the camaraderie, the game day, but I’ve played in two finals and lost, hopefully there will be an opportunity to take those lessons and put them to good use in the future. It’s important to be hungry for every day, not just a final.”

The Sharks made a disappointing start to its 2010 Super 14 campaign last weekend when it lost 19-18 at home to the Chiefs.

In response, coach John Plumtree named Springboks Adi Jacobs, Ruan Pienaar and Jannie du Plessis in his starting lineup Wednesday for the match with the Cheetahs after the trio started on the bench against the Chiefs. Lock Alistair Hargreaves will play his first Super 14 game in place of the injured Johann Muller.

Smit has been moved from prop to hooker and will captain the team, and Plumtree paid tribute to his popular skipper.

“He’s been outstanding for us and the achievement of 100 caps for just one union, that’s massive for John,” Plumtree said.

“Players move around a lot, so to play 100 games for one province is really significant.”

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