John Smit is the South Africa captain and inspirational hooker who memorably led his side to the sport's biggest prize at the 2007 World Cup in France.
South Africa's most-capped captain has anchored the Springboks' scrum more times than any other player, is his country's most-capped forward and also appeared in a record 46 consecutive Test matches between 2003 and 2007. Nick Mallett, his former coach, handed a 22-year-old Smit his international debut against Canada on 10 June 2000, using him as a replacement in the Springboks' comprehensive 51-18 victory.
Smit retained his place in the squad throughout that year's Tri-Nations campaign and was finally given his first start against Argentina on 12 November 2000. The gamble to throw Smit into the cauldron of the River Plate Stadium - packed with 60,000 fans - paid off with his hooker delivering an accomplished performance.
Smit held onto the No.2 shirt throughout the end-of-year tour to Europe and for the incoming tours the following year but was displaced for the 2001 Tri-Nations.
Although he remained part of the squad until the end of the year, scoring his first Test try against Italy, he dropped out of the international picture for the following 18 months with a recurring shoulder injury. The next South Africa coach, Rudolf Straeuli, recalled him to their squad for the 2003 World Cup.
He featured in all five matches in Australia and became the 51st player to captain the Springboks in the 46-19 win over Georgia on 24 October.
Jake White was appointed as the new Springboks' coach in early 2004 and he handed Smit the captaincy on a permanent basis. The two immediately struck up a winning partnership with South Africa clinching their first Tri-Nations crown since 1998.
Smit went on to play a South African record of 46 consecutive Test matches between 2003 and 2007 before his run was cruelly cut short ahead of the Tri-Nations clash with New Zealand in Durban by injury.
That year began well for Smit and the Springboks with two crushing victories over England but Tri-Nations disappointment followed. But the World Cup brought redemption with Smit featuring in all seven victories, culminating with the 15-6 final triumph over England at the Stade de France in Paris.
In the first game of the 2008 Tri-Nations Smit was the victim of a spear tackle from New Zealand's Brad Thorn. That tackle, and a subsequent groin injury, brought a premature end to his campaign.
Smit has played all his provincial rugby in South Africa for the Sharks with whom he was a beaten finalist in the 2001 Super 12 competition where they lost out to the Brumbies. In 2006, Smit was captain of the Sharks side that were beaten by South African rivals the Bulls in the final of the 2007 super 14 competition.
In the run-up to the 2007 Rugby World Cup Smit was linked with a lucrative move to French Top 14 club ASM Clermont Montferrand. When his move was confirmed after the Rugby World Cup the South African Rugby Union made the unprecedented decision that Smit would retain the Springboks captaincy.
Smit made only a few appearances for his new club but featured as a replacement in the Top 14 Final defeat to Toulouse. After just one year in France, Smit re-signed with Natal and the Sharks in South Africa.
At the end of 2008, he bounced back from his injury woes to lead South Africa on an undefeated tour of the UK with victories over Wales, Scotland and most memorably England - condemning them to their biggest-ever defeat at Twickenham. Following the end of the Springboks tour, Smit captained the Barbarians in their 18-12 loss to Australia at Wembley Stadium.
In 2009 Smit led the Springboks to a 2-1 series victory over the British & Irish Lions. He scored a try after four minutes in the narrow 26-21 win over the tourists in the first Test in Durban and played in all three matches in the series.