Rugby Championship: Springboks' Juan Smith returns against Pumas
Last Updated: 21/08/14 3:44pm
Juan Smith will complete a remarkable return to international rugby when he starts for South Africa against Argentina in Salta on Saturday.
Smith was called into Springboks as a replacement for fellow 2007 World Cup winner Victor Matfield and is now in line to win his first cap since he faced England in November of 2010.
There were fears Smith’s career was over when he tore his Achilles tendon while playing for the Bulls in the opening game of the 2011 Super Rugby season.
That injury cost the 33-year-old – who can play in both the back and second row – two years out of the game but he will complete his comeback against the Pumas when he earns his 70th cap.
The versatile forward lined up for Toulon alongside Jonny Wilkinson last season and helped the French side to success in both the Heineken Cup and the Top 14.
Smith’s inclusion at flank is one of three changes to the starting team, with a further four changes on the bench.
Gurthrö Steenkamp (prop) and Eben Etzebeth (lock) will start in the tight five, with Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha moving to the bench.
Marcell Coetzee will join them amongst the replacements after coming in as a late substitute for the injured Willem Alberts last weekend while Lwazi Mvovo has also earned a spot on the bench.
'Experience and leadership'
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is delighted to be able to call on Smith once again and hopes his presence can steady a line-out which was suspect in South Africa’s 13-6 win over Argentina last week in Pretoria.
“We have a couple of options at blindside flank, but we’ve decided that this will be a great opportunity to give Juan a chance,” said Meyer.
“If it wasn’t for an injury which kept him out in June, he would’ve played a part in the Castle Lager Incoming Series.
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“He was one of Toulon’s best players after more than two years out of the game and helped them to win two major competitions.
“Apart from experience and leadership, Juan is a superb ball-carrier and also brilliant at the back of the lineouts, where we missed Willem Alberts last week.
“Our lineouts are an important attacking platform and we need to improve this week – I’m sure Juan will add another dimension.”
Saturday’s Test will be the Springboks’ first visit to Salta, in the north west of the country and Meyer is aware his team will have to raise their performance levels if they are to win on Argentinian soil.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Meyer said. “Although we were happy with the result in Pretoria, we were not happy with the performance and this is an opportunity to show improvement against a tough opponent away from home.”
South Africa's Rugby Championship clash with Argentina is live on Sky Sports 3 from 8.30pm on Saturday with New Zealand's game against Australia also live that day on the same channel from 8.00am.
South Africa: 15 Le Roux, 14 Hendricks, 13 De Allende, 12 De Villiers (capt), 11 Habana, 10 Pollard, 9 Pienaar; 1 Steenkamp, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 4 Etzebeth, 5 De Jager, 6 Louw, 7 Smith, 8 Vermeulen
Replacements: 16 Strauss, 17 Mtawarira, 18 Malherbe, 19 Botha, 20 Coetzee, 21 Hougaard, 22 Steyn, 23 Mvovo