Springbok captain John Smit should regain his best form in the next fortnight and be in top shape to lead his country in defence of their World Cup crown later this year.
This is the view of Bok coach Peter de Villiers, on the eve of South Africa's opening Tri-Nations Test - against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
De Villiers, who has been very vocal about his preference for Smit to be used solely at hooker, feels Saturday's encounter with the Wallabies and next week's clash with the All Blacks will prove invaluable
And the Bok captain himself is "feeling good" about wearing the No.2 jersey after training in the middle of the front row for an extended period.
"John has been judged [unfairly] on something that was out of his hands," De Villiers said about Smit being shifted around in the front row by the Sharks this year.
"We have high expectations of him and he has two games now," De Villiers said in Sydney, adding: "I hope he comes good again and when we returns to South Africa, I hope that these two games would prove to have been valuable to him."
Smit, also speaking at the team's base in Sydney, said it "feels good" to be back at hooker.
"I haven't played there too much this year," the Boks skipper said.
"To have the ability to play in this Test match and having trained for three weeks at hooker, makes a big difference for me ... it is fun again."
Asked about the two debutants - Bulls props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger - on either side of him in Saturday's Test Smit said it is nice to have a couple of rookies in the team.
"It gets the energy and the spirit up," he said, adding: "I am really excited about these guys.
"Having watched them and seen how well they have done, how far they have come ... Werner [Kruger] has put his hand up for quite some time and Dean [Greyling] has hit the scene hard, having gotten the opportunity with Gurthrö [Steenkamp] out injured.
"I am really excited about scrumming down with them and I am hoping for big things on Saturday."
The Bok coach was also expecting big things from the new look front row.
"What a privilege for them to start their Test careers with a guy like John [Smit] in the middle," he said of the two Bulls.
"We tried to get the [right] blend of experience with the youthful exuberance of the young guys.
"I hope they can provide the energy and the others can draw from that. I also hope the experienced guys can calm them down and keep their feet on the ground."
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