Bulls loose forward Roelof Smit wants to earn more opportunities in the near future to prove that he can be an influential openside flank at Test level for the Springboks.
Roelof Smit, who has spent the past five years at the Bulls and is a former Junior Springbok, was one of the surprise call-ups in the Springbok squad selected to tour Europe for the November Tests. After impressing the selectors during Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, the 23-year-old got his chance when he started for South Africa in the 31-31 draw against the Barbarians.
After scoring a try during a solid performance, Smit was expected to be in the mix for the Test against England last weekend, but a torn pectoral muscle ruled him out for the rest of the tour. He returned home last week and underwent surgery on Tuesday morning.
Smit admitted that he was disappointed to pick up an injury, but aims to use the shortfall to fuel his ambitions for the 2017 season.
“It’s disappointing knowing that I was five days away from earning a chance to make my Test debut for the Springboks. That’s every South African rugby player’s dream,” Smit told MyPlayers. “But I’m still focused on the positives. I was very surprised to receive the call-up at this stage of my career and it was a great experience to play against the Barbarians.
“Scoring the try was a great moment, but I admit there was a near moment of confusion! There were still a few soccer pitch lines on the field, so when I went over so easily, I thought I had dived too early. Luckily, I scored in the right area!
“I still remember receiving the news after the Currie Cup final. Obviously the team was disappointed to lose the match against the Cheetahs, but once we left the field, Victor Matfield pulled me a side and confirmed that I was in the team. It was great hearing the news from him.
“Looking ahead, I believe I can play my way back into the national squad next year. I was very happy with my season during Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. I am determined to come back stronger and prove that I’m the most effective openside flank in South Africa.”
Smit proved this during the Currie Cup as he boasted some of the best tackle and breakdown statistics in his position, despite only playing six of the 10 games, which included two appearances off the bench.
“I was unlucky to suffer an eye injury just before the Currie Cup. So I had to be a bit patient when I recovered and play my way back into the team,” said Smit. “I was very happy with my game, but didn’t expect to achieve so many positive statistics. When I had a chat with (Springbok assistant coach) Johann van Graan, he told me I have some of the best Currie Cup statistics for an opensider despite missing the first four rounds of the tournament and only starting four matches.”
When he’s not chasing the ball on the field, Smit is focused on completing his mechanical engineering studies through UNISA. Despite his busy schedule, he is determined to obtain his degree.
“I believe it’s very important for players to prepare for life after rugby. It can get difficult, especially when the rugby schedule takes up a lot of your time. But if you make the necessary sacrifices, you can complete your studies,” explained Smit.
“I was forced to postpone my exams twice this year due to the Super Rugby and Springbok overseas tours, but as long as there’s another opportunity for me to write the exams, then I’m happy. It might take rugby players a bit longer to complete one’s studies, but it’s better to make the commitment while you’re still young, so you can benefit from it later in life.”
By Gareth Duncan