Juan Smith © Gallo Images
Springbok Juan Smith has been forced to announce his retirement from rugby after sustaining another Achilles injury during Saturday’s pre-season friendly against the Bulls.
Smith, who only returned to action two weeks ago after a two year absence and four operations on his Achilles, finally gave up all hope of continuing after an MRI scan came back negative on Monday.
He is expected to make a formal announcement on Tuesday confirming his retirement, but has already confirmed it to local Bloemfontein newspaper Die Volksblad.
Smith was originally injured in the opening Super Rugby game in February 2011, ironically against the Bulls as well and had to fight his way back through pain and operations, never giving up the hope of returning to the field again.
He did make his comeback in the pre-season victory against the Stormers on Saturday, and played the entire second half in Polokwane against the Bulls, whereafter his coach Naka Drotske praised him and talked of how proud he was to have him ready for Super Rugby again.
Then on Monday the situation changed, and the scan confirmed the worst fears.
Smith confirmed the retirement, saying he was encouraged every time by the fans to try and return.
“It was the fans that lifted me after every disappointment of an operation and helped me scrape together hope to try and return to the field. I appreciate the support that I received through the years from my family, and that I received from Springbok and especially Free State supporters,” He told Die Volksblad.
Smith said he would discuss his future with his wife Caroline, and hoped to stay involved in rugby.
“There are possibilities but I haven’t taken any decisions. I need to assess the physical and mental impact of my injury over the past few years. I’m first going to go for a week’s vacation.”
Smith’s career has been a remarkable one and formed a great loose trio with Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger in his prime. He was the rock in Jake White’s Springbok team and starred in the World Cup victory in 2007. He also won the Currie Cup with the Cheetahs in 2005 and Tri-Nations in 2009 with the Boks.