Springbok captain John Smit has officially been ruled out of the End of Year Grand Slam Tour as he is recovering from an operation.
SA Rugby confirmed in a media statement that Smit had undergone an operation to repair a cervical disc and will be sidelined for a minimum of 3 months.
This will rule the embattled captain out of contention from the end of the year tour to the UK where they will play all 4 home unions.
Smit has come under a lot of criticism in recent months where his form and conditioning have been continually questioned.
He is still very much in the plans of the Springboks for 2011 however and should be fit to run out for the Sharks in 2011 as the Super 15 kicks off.
According to SA Rugby the injury was not career threatening and that the procedure was more to prevent the disc getting progressively worse.
This will now leave Peter de Villiers with a decision as to who will captain the Springboks on the tour to Europe as Victor Matfield has also been earmarked to stay at home to rest. It will be interesting to see if De Villiers will hand the captaincy over to a senior player or perhaps a youngster who might take over following the Rugby World Cup in 2011 where most senior players will retire.
Senior players that might be considered given their experience as captains for their respective unions in the past include Juan Smith, Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers. De Villiers might however consider investing in the future and look towards players like Dewald Potgieter who captained the Emerging Boks in 2009 against the Lions.
John’s unavailability of course also opens the door for more regular game time for Chiliboy Ralepelle, a player long earmarked to take over the captaincy even under the days of Jake White where he did captain a Springbok XV once in an unofficial test match.
How De Villiers will juggle the selections between Chiliboy and Bismarck du Plessis who was John’s understudy since the 2007 Rugby World Cup and number 1 choice hooker in 2009 remains to be seen.