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Heyneke's additional Bok option

Thu, 07 Feb 2013 09:00
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We all know that Juan Smith is in a class of his own
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It is not just the Cheetahs who are jumping for joy at the successful return from injury of veteran Springbok loose forward Juan Smith.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer is also sharing in the celebrations after watching the veteran flank leave his mark on the game once more.

The 31-year-old Smith, who played a half-an-hour in the Cheetahs' 27-26 win over the Stormers last week, made his first appearance in a match since he ruptured is Achilles in February 2011.

His comeback ended speculation that the injury was so severe that he may never play again.

His impact on the game, after coming on as a second-half replacement against the Stormers, was there for all to see.

"He even had the referee making a double-take on one of his decisions," Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie quipped, when asked about Smith's role in the win in Bloemfontein.

"He simply has an enormous influence on the game - with his play, his leadership and presence on the field," the Cheetahs backline coach said.

"He just lifts the players around him and that is what makes him such a special player.

"You could see the value he will have for us [this year]."

His return, according to Fourie, is good news for both the Cheetahs and Boks.

"He has been a stalwart for the Springboks for many years and if he is back to his best he will certainly provide [Bok coach] Heyneke [Meyer] with another option at loose forward," the Cheetahs mentor said of the 69-times capped international.

"The Boks do have a large number of quality loose forwards at present, but we all know that Juan Smith is in a class of his own."

Another positive is that Smith showed no after-effects, despite his lengthy lay-off.

"The Achilles was pain free," Fourie said of Smith's stint on the field.

"He was obviously a bit stiff, given that he has not played for about two years, but as far as the injury was concerned he was in great shape."

The Cheetahs now have an abundance of fit loose forwards to pick from, with only Bok openside flank Heinrich Brüssow (shoulder) still on the injury list.

Frans Viljoen, like Smith, made a successful comeback from a lengthy injury lay-off and adds to an impressive collection of loose forwards that also include Philip van der Walt , Lappies Labuschagné, Davon Raubenheimer , Johannes Prinsloo, Tertius Daniller and Marnus Schoeman.

By Jan de Koning

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