Book reveals John Smit as a ‘decent, humble bloke’
A FEW weeks ago former tennis star Andre Agassi, in an interview about his controversial biography, appealed to readers to read the book and make up their own minds rather than rely on media puff. The same should be said about The John Smit Story: Captain in the Cauldron.
This is a book that is about far more than Luke Watson’s affect on the Springbok team, Camp Staaldraad, Peter de Villiers or the bad blood between the Boks and the British and Irish Lions.
It peters out at the end, where there is perhaps too much personal indulgence that the average reader won’t find at all interesting. For instance, Smit devotes a chapter to advising young players of the pitfalls of being a professional, and some of his team selections are made up of players and friends many people would never have heard of.
His biographer, Mike Greenaway, does an excellent job of bringing the Springbok captain’s voice through in the work, and those who did not know already would have been left with a true impression of what Smit is – apart from being the most celebrated Bok captain ever, he is just a really decent, humble bloke.
This even comes through in the more controversial chapters, which are dealt with in a typically Smit even-handed manner and without vindictiveness. While Smit is forthright in the way he tackles the impact Watson’s behaviour had on the Bok team, he tempers his criticism by pointing to how Watson appeared to mature this season, as well as ascribing some of Watson’s mistakes to a difficult upbringing.
As for the part which some newspapers highlighted where he accuses the De Villiers critics of being racist, if you read all that he writes about De Villiers, rather than just take out select quotes, it becomes apparent that he doesn’t differ much from most of the critics.
Yet it’s not the controversial chapters that make this a highly readable book, but rather the many little anecdotes that give the reader an intriguing insight into Smit’s life, his mind and the massive, allencompassing undertaking that it is to be Springbok captain.
Smit writes in detail about the routine he goes through before a Test in preparing the players for action, the effort he goes through such as putting notes under each one of their doors the night before and the detailed study he does of the behaviour of the players as the bus heads to the match. This tells him how he needs to treat each player in the immediate build-up to the game, what message to put across.
Ultimately it is because of the finer detail which you won’t see highlighted in the media that you should read the book.