When you think of the name Juan Smith you think of World Cup 2007 and surely should have been the player of the tournament. He has call it a day on his long and great rugby career this week and we look back on the man and one of the few players I would call Springboks greats.
Born on the 30 July 1981, Juanne Hugo Smith in Bloemfontein, Smith played for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby and Currie Cup for most of his career.
Smith played blindside flank as well as number eight throughout his career. He played 18 times for the Cheetahs in Currie Cup, 31 times for the Cats in Super Rugby and 47 times for the Cheetahs also in Super Rugby.
Smith also played 44 times for Fench club Toulon and he represented South Africa 70 times with the highlight of his career the 2007 World Cup and the Lions tour in 2009
In his career Smith has won plenty of trophies started with the U21 World Cup in 2002, Currie Cup with Cheetahs in 2005, World Cup in 2007, Tri-Nations in 2009, Lions Series in 2009, European Champions Cup in 2014, 2015 and Top14 in 2014.
He made his test debut in 2003 as a replacement against Scotland at Kings Park. He was included in the 2003 Springbok World Cup squad.
Smith captained the Cheetahs when they gained entrance to the Super Rugby in 2006.
Smith was a key part of the World Cup-winning team to lift the Webb Ellis trophy in 2007. Although Smith wears the number seven on the back of his shirt, implying that he is an open side flanker, he is actually a blindside flanker, as the custom in South Africa is for openside to wear the number six rather than seven.
Renowned for his strong ball carrying, Smith is one of the best blindside flankers in the world.
On 25 February 2011, in a Super Rugby match against the Bulls in Bloemfontein, Smith tore his Achilles tendon, which caused him to miss the rest of the 2011 Super Rugby season, as well as the Tri Nations and the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
In April 2012, Smith announced that he would be taking an indefinite break from rugby due to the ongoing battle with his Achilles injury.He had had four operations on the injury but was concerned that the recovery was taking longer than he had hoped. “The right thing to do now is to give my injury sufficient time to heal 100%,” Smith said in an interview with the Volksblad newspaper.
Despite making his long-awaited comeback for the Cheetahs playing against the Bulls in a pre-season game in February 2013, the results of a subsequent MRI scan forced Smith to announce his retirement from the game.
On 10 September 2013 it was announced that Smith had been persuaded to come out of retirement and had signed a deal with RC Toulonnais.
Smith’s 2013 season return to rugby resembles a fairytale story. Returning from a career ending injury to an unprecedentedly successful season, Toulon won the Heineken Cup, becoming only the third team ever to retain the title.
On 24 May 2014, Smith scored the decisive try in the 60th minute of the final against Saracens. He also played a crucial part in the final of the French Top 14 a week later on 31 May 2014, in which Toulon defeated Castres Olympique to win the title for the first time since 1992.
Subsequently, and capping a remarkable comeback year, on 6 August 2014, Smith was recalled to the Springboks team for the Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.
In 2015 Smith again won the European Rugby Champions Cup with Toulon.
Smith will go down as one of the best in the world and his attitude on and off the field will be something we will remember for ever.