Next fortnight decisive for Bok veteran
Next fortnight decisive for Bok veteranSHARE
World Cup-winning veteran Juan Smith will make a call on his future in the next fortnight, with several options on the table.
The 31-year-old Smith, who has not played since he snapped his Achilles in the opening round of the 2011 Super Rugby season, admitted he has awoken every morning with the thought that he may never play again.
However, now that he is running "fairly freely" again there is a ray of hope that he can continue his career – which he believes can last another four to five years.
Smith, in an exclusive interview with this website, confirmed that he is "uncertain" where he will play next year – with offers from France, while he is also talking to the Cheetahs.
"At the end of the day I believe I will make the correct decision," the 69-Test veteran said, adding that he is looking at a number of options.
"What makes it a tricky situation is that my wife is expecting and she is due at the end of the year," Smith said, when asked about the offers on the table.
"If I take the French option, there's a good chance I will miss it [the birth of my child]," he told this website, adding: "That is something I have to consider. However, I haven't excluded that option yet."
Asked about his negotiations with the Cheetahs, the loose forward said there are complications as well.
"I am still speaking to them," he said, adding: "They have exhausted their recruitment budget.
"At this stage we are having discussions to see what they can do from their side.
"In the next two weeks I will know exactly where I will play next year."
The loose forwards in the Cheetahs' extended Super Rugby squad for 2013 are Marnus Schoeman, Justin Downey, Leon Karemaker, Pieter Labuschagné, Davon Raubenheimer, Tertuis Daniller, Philip van der Walt, Heinrich Brüssow en Johannes Prinsloo.
However, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské is keen to find a way to get Smith on their books, as there remains uncertainty over the availability of another Bok star, Heinrich Brüssow – who is in a race against time to be fit for the start of the 2013 season, following shoulder surgery.
Van der Walt (knee), Prinsloo (shoulder) and Labuschagné (ankle) are other players on that loose forward list currently carrying injuries.
Smith said that after four operations and eight sets of rehabilitation he is keen to start playing again.
"At the moment I am doing plenty of running," he told this website, when asked about the long-standing Achilles problem.
"Although there is still a bit of discomfort, I am sure it will all be resolved before next year.
"I am running very comfortably and then there is just a bit of stiffness afterwards, which is related to all the operations I underwent."
He admitted the thought that he may never play again crossed his mind.
"Every morning that was a thought on my mind," Smith said, adding: "But that is also what got me out of bed every day – I desperately still want to play.
"I feel I still have a good four to five years left in me.
"It is within my being not to give up.
"If it comes down to that [that I never play again] I want to know that I gave it a 100 percent [to try and get back on the field].
"As I said, that thought [of not playing again] crossed my mind every morning – especially after four operations and going through rehabilitation eight times.
"The ray of hope that there is [a chance of playing], I believe I deserve it."
Smith, who scored 12 tries in his 69 Tests, made his Bok debut against Scotland in Durban in June 2003.
He played his last Test against England at Twickenham in November 2010.
By Jan de Koning