John Smit and Victor Matfield have spent ten years as Springbok team-mates and are determined to end their international careers on a high.
The duo are South Africa’s two most-capped players with 213 Tests between them, spanning over a decade. During this time the two forged one of the best thrower-jumper line-out combinations in world rugby.
They have been through many highs and lows, with the nightmare of ‘Kamp Staaldraad’ preceding two Tri-Nations titles and a magical World Cup win in 2007.
“Victor and I, it’s crazy. We’ve played a huge amount of tests together.” Smit told the Associated Press.
“We’ve seen each other get married, have kids. We’ve been through Staaldraads together, we’ve won World Cups and Tri-Nations, we’ve lost Tri-Nations. We’ve had our moments up and down and we’ve always had each other.
“For me, it’s just a special relationship. A lot of people always take Victor for granted. He’s a phenomenal player and a great leader. He’s been a pillar of strength for me. I’ve relied on him heavily throughout my time as captain and he’s stepped up and provided.”
Matfield echoed his skipper’s sentiments.
“Myself and John are big mates. We’ve been playing together for quite some time now. It’s about knowing each other’s body language, knowing what’s coming and that always helps. It’s fantastic what the two of us have,” explained the lock.
However, matters have not been too rosy following their World Cup triumph, with Smit in particular coming in for some harsh criticism in recent times. The performances of the Springboks too have dipped with the South Africans dropping to third in the world rankings.
Despite this, coach Peter de Villiers retains complete faith in the experienced pair.
“I trust both of them completely,” he said.
“I know their abilities and how they can read the game. I think we are in a better position than we were a few years back.”
Smit believes that the challenging times have only made the Springboks a stronger unit.
“I think that’s what makes a good team,” said the hooker.
“A team that can prepare itself well for a curve ball, but also react well to a curve ball. And this team has seen a few curve balls in its time. We’ve overcome a lot of them and some we haven’t - it’s those lessons where you haven’t that you have to hold on to.”