South African Rugby are remembering another Springbok captain who passed away on Monday. Former Springbok captain, Cornelius Michael “Nelie” Smith, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning, “Oom Nelie“, 81, passed away due to heart failure, in Strand where he lived, only a week before his 82nd birthday on 8 May.
Captains of the day Nelie Smith and A Rowlands shaking hands
If ever a man made rugby his life, that man was Nelie Smith. As a player he gave everything, but it was when he started coaching that it became more apparent that the game was his consuming interest. When he couldn’t get what he wanted in South Africa, he left for Italy where he carried on the good work. He is now back in South Africa, and I hope he will carry on where he left off before going abroad again.
Nelie enjoyed great success while coaching Orange Free State, to the extent that they won the Currie Cup in 1976, beating Western Province in the final. I’m not sure whether any Springbok team he coached were ever beaten and in Rovigo, Italy, he experienced the same sucess as he had here. A gifted player and an even more gifted coach.
“Oom Nelie was one of the best. It is only a selected few who played for, captained and coached the Springboks and he was one of those. His rugby knowledge was massive and he has touched the lives of thousands of players over the many years he coached,” said SARU President Hoskins. “He was in high demand as a coach all over the world and achieved success in countries such as Italy and Ireland as well. His approach to basics like fitness and handling was well-known and many players will remember his driving maul techniques with a smile today.”
Smith played in seven Tests for the Springboks and captained them in four of those. His debut was in 1963 against Australia and his first Test as captain against France a year later. He also captained the Springboks against Australia and New Zealand in 1965 and scored a try and three penalties for 12 Test points. Smith also played in 12 tour matches for South Africa.
As Springbok coach in 1980-81, Smith won 12 of 15 Tests. He also served as a Springbok selector for a decade (1971-81). At provincial level, Smith and Sakkie van Zyl coached the Orange Free State to their first Currie Cup title in 1976. Smith played for the Free State in 60 matches between 1956 and 1965 and captained them in 37 matches. He also played for Griquas in four matches in 1966. Smith also coached the likes of Eastern Province and Northern Free State as well as Ballymena and Rovigo in Ireland and Italy respectively.
Smith is survived by daughters Carin, Annien and son Cornelius.
|Test summary: Tests: 7 Tries: 1|
|First Test: 24 Aug 1963 Age:29 Scrumhalf against Australia at Ellispark, Johannesburg|
|Last Test: 21 Aug 1965 Age:31 Scrumhalf against New Zealand at Carisbrook, Dunedin|
|24 Aug 1963||29||Scrumhalf||Australia||Lose: 9-11||3 penalties||Ellispark, Johannesburg||OFS|
|07 Sep 1963||29||Scrumhalf||Australia||Win: 22-6||Boet Erasmus, Port Elizabeth||OFS|
|23 May 1964||30||Scrumhalf||Wales||Win: 24-3||1 try||Kingspark, Durban||OFS|
|25 Jul 1964||30||Scrumhalf (C)||France||Lose: 6-8||P.A.M. Brink Stadium, Springs||OFS|
|19 Jun 1965||31||Scrumhalf (C)||Australia||Lose: 11-18||Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney||OFS|
|26 Jun 1965||31||Scrumhalf (C)||Australia||Lose: 8-12||Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park), Brisbane||OFS|
|21 Aug 1965||31||Scrumhalf (C)||New Zealand||Lose: 0-13||Carisbrook, Dunedin||OFS|