The Springbok legend, who has recently made his debut for Saracens, spoke about both his rugby experiences in SA and his future plans in London, to a very attentive crowd.
John has moved over to the UK to join Saracens Rugby Club for two seasons, along with his wife and two young children. After sacrificing much time away from his family in the past, he is now focusing on being as much of a full-time dad and husband as possible, while still staying true to his passion for rugby.
John touched on the Rugby World Cup, which of course, is still lingering in everyone’s minds. “It’s hard to wrap up the World Cup in a couple of minutes. It’s odd to talk about an event that took so much planning and preparation, and I still find it difficult to talk about. The team had such great intentions and it was a sad and disappointing ending for all.”
John has been to various events since settling in London and said he still cannot bring himself to joke about the World Cup. “All team members sacrificed so much for the World Cup and there was such a powerful belief in this experienced team. It’s still a hard pill to swallow, months on, that we did not make it.”
John’s favourite memory of the World Cup was their farewell departure at Sandton Square where he felt such great spirit and excitement from the thousands who showed up to bid the Springboks good luck. “People care so much about the team. It was extraordinary having support from what felt like the whole country”. As to what degree the sport of rugby is adopted by all South Africans, John felt that in the last 11 years he had seen a massive progression in whom he feels the team represents. “This has been a change I have been so very proud of and it all has its origins with Madiba who wore a Springbok jersey and supported the team in the early days of democracy.”
John and his family now begin a fresh start in London and he believes being part of the successful Saracens team will help him with the healing process. “It’s time to enjoy rugby which I am wholly passionate about and it’s time to experience new cultures and people. I can go for coffee here and no one knows me or approaches me. It’s lovely to start anew and experience one of my favourite cities.”
After John thrilled everyone with his insightful speech, his fans had the chance to ask him their bursting questions. He was asked everything from how he has managed to keep his ears looking so good (!) to what his thoughts are on a new captain for the SA team (he named Schalk Burger) as well as his thoughts on Pieter de Villiers as a coach (“an interesting character who is a good and compassionate man who cares about his team”.)
So how did breakfast with John Smit come about? The event was held by the TheSouthAfrican.com and the SA Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to promote business networking opportunities within the South African community here, through events such as these. Thus business folk gathered – everyone from SA Immigration specialists to the local Putney dentist, to exchange ideas and strengthen trade relations over a healthy breakfast.
“People are one of the most powerful mediums and through this initiative we are able to reach out and help other South Africans,” concluded Mike Miller, executive director of The SA Chamber of Commerce. This is the first fully fledged SA Chamber of Commerce in Britain and it’s a united voice for businesses who wish to cultivate and add impetus to relationships with like-minded South Africans.
To find out how to become a member of the Breakfast Indaba e-mail [email protected]
See more photos of the event here