Smith treatment envied in South Africa

Getty Images     11 Oct 2013     Getty Images

Writing for Sport24, Row Houwing compared the treatment the two key backline contributors have received as they look ahead to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

De Villiers has played 93 Tests in a 12-year career while Smith has played 75 Tests in 10 years.

With Smith joining de Villiers at the 32-year mark on Saturday, Houwing noted that both were relative long shots to make the World Cup. Would they both make it?

Houwing felt the odds were against de Villiers doing it. Smith, on the other hand, had an advantage because efforts were being taken to preserve 'his shelf life'.

"Smith ended the pulsating Ellis Park title decider last Saturday not only victorious (though it was not for lack of trying by the similarly majestic Bok skipper De Villiers) but also satisfied in the knowledge that his presumably fairly battered body had just begun one of those fashionable New Zealand 'sabbaticals' of several months – a tasty offshoot of central contracting in that country of key Test figures."

As a consequence, Smith won't be part of the dead Bledisloe Cup game in Dunedin nor the northern tour in November.

"It is just the sort of recharge a veteran combatant in the modern game needs to ensure fresh physical zest and mental vitality down the line, but at this stage there seems no special plan to make any similar allowances for De Villiers.

"He is caught between the old South African phenomenon of a rock and a hard place: the ever-insatiable, dual needs of 'club and country', if you like," he said.

As partial relief, De Villiers has been named on the bench for Western Province at the weekend, but Houwing wasn't holding his breath, he fully expected Murphy's Law to ensure the Springbok captain would be required on the field sooner than would be normal.

And as for the Springbok tour to Britain, Houwing said: "Deep down, even Bok coach Heyneke Meyer probably knows that his skipper could really do with all of November off, but long-term considerations will be steamrollered once more, no doubt, by the shorter-term employer and public demand for optimum win-percentage stats by the national coach."