Jun 21, 2017
John Smit on Jamie George, special Saracens and returning to Allianz Park
NO-ONE is more excited by the international success of Saracens’ Jamie George than his mentor John Smit.
The former South Africa captain returns to Allianz Park on Friday, June 30 as one of dozens of big names taking part in the Worldwide Currencies Cup match in aide of Restart Rugby and the #LiftTheWeight mental health awareness campaign.
Hooker Smit made 46 appearances for the club after arriving in 2011 when he was also tasked with bringing through young players by former chief executive Ed Griffiths.
George, 26, now has two Premiership and European Cup titles under his belt, made his England debut in 2015 and is now on the verge of Test honours for the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand.
"I couldn’t have been prouder watching Jamie George and all he’s achieved for Saracens, England and the Lions,” said Smit.
"Ed (Griffiths) wanted me to be a mentor for the younger hookers but I didn’t know just how much talent he had until I arrived.
"He was so hungry for knowledge and so appreciative of all the time he spent learning. I was only a small part of his development but I loved every minute of it.”
George will be backed up by new singing Christopher Tolofua next term while veteran Schalk Brits has extended his stay for another season.
"Schalk’s been playing such wonderful rugby and having that role where he plays 25-30 minutes off the bench could be the start of a whole new chapter for him,” added Smit.
Saracens joined exalted company with the second successive European Cup win secured by their 28-17 victory over Clermont last month.
Toulon, Leinster and Leciester are the only other teams who have won back-to-back titles - and only Toulon have won three in a row.
"To win back to back European titles is pretty special and Saracens is a special club,” said Smit.
"To have won the Premiership three years in a row - and to have done a double double - would have been great but you have to say well done to the Exeter Chiefs. It’s something that requires a huge effort.
“Why are Saracens special? When I was there everyone liked what we were doing, liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company on and off the pitch. It’s probably the only true rugby family I’ve been part of and that’s a key point of difference.”
The Worldwide Currencies Cup match kicks off the Sevens and the City sports and music festival curated by Matt Stevens and David Strettle.
Its South African flavour is added to by Saturday night’s music headliners GoldFish, the electronica duo from Cape Town with a global following.
For tickets go to sevensandthecity.com
Worldwide Currencies Cup, confirmed players: Gerald Arasa, Iain Balshaw, Jonny Barrett, Mike Baxter, Ben Boynton, Dan Browne, Craig Burrow, Noah Cato, Tom Cheeseman, Tom Court, Mark Cueto, Gareth Davies, Mel Deane, Thinus Delport, Muna Ebongalame, Philip Friel, Danny Grewcock, Simon Halliday, Dan Harris, Justin Harrison, Rob Hawkins, Gareth King, Neil de Kock, Olly Kohn, Nick Lloyd, Tom May, Lee Mears, Ugo Monye, Nils Mordt, Fabio Ongaro, Michael Owen, Ryan Peacey, Shaun Perry, Ollie Phillips, Petrus du Plessis, Alix Popham, Tony Rea, Paul Reed, Lee Robinson, Gordon Ross, John Rudd, Dan Scarbrough, Dean Schofield, Ben Skirving, John Smit, Matt Stevens, David Strettle, Stephen Taylor, Jordan Turner-Hall, Hugh Vyvyan, Paddy Wallace, Richard Webb, Tom Williams (53).