• Springbok John Smit one of greatest Test captains, says Owens

    Springbok John Smit one of greatest Test captains, says Owens
    (Photo by Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

    Legendary referee Nigel Owens has rated John Smit as among the greatest Test captains and Springbok winger Bryan Habana as the best left wing he has seen. Owens also rated the Springboks versus All Blacks the toughest Tests to referee, writes Mark Keohane.

    Smit and Habana are the only two Springboks in Owens’s Greatest XV, with the southern hemisphere’s New Zealand and Argentina also getting a look in. But no Australian makes Owens’s team.

    Owens, the most capped referee in the game, was for the past decade considered the best referee in international rugby. He refereed the 2015 World Cup final.

    Owens said of Smit: ‘He led the Springboks to success at the 2007 World Cup in France and against the 2009 Lions and is one of the greatest captains I have dealt with.’

    Of Habana’s inclusion, he said: ‘Imagine having to defend against a back three of Stuart Hogg, Shane Williams and Habana.’

    Habana is South Africa’s leading try scorer in Test rugby with 67 tries and alongside the late Jonah Lomu holds the record for most tries (15) in World Cups. Habana and Lomu also hold the individual record of eight tries at a World Cup tournament.

    Smit and Habana are both Test centurions.

    Owens picked Ma’a Nonu and Richie McCaw as his only two Kiwis and said of McCaw: “If anybody had to pick the greatest player in history, it would surely be a difficult choice between him and Gareth Edwards.”

    Pumas scrumhalf Agustin Pichot is Owens’s choice at scrumhalf.

    Nigel Owens’s Greatest XV

    15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

    14. Shane Williams (Wales)

    13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

    12. Ma’a Nonu (NZ)

    11. Bryan Habana (South Africa)

    10. Dan Carter (NZ)

    9. Agustin Pichot (Argentina)

    8. Sergio Parisse (Italy)

    7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

    6 Thierry Dusautoir (France)

    5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)

    4. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

    3. Phil Vickery (England)

    2. John Smit (South Africa)

    1.Gethin Jenkins (Wales)

    Owens also described the All Blacks 38-27 win against the Springboks at Emirates Airline Park as the greatest Test match he had refereed and the Springboks against All Blacks as the toughest Tests to referee.

    Owens has said that when the Springboks come up against the All Blacks, it is the toughest game of rugby to referee.

    In a column for Wales Onlinewebsite, Owens wrote: “I remember Derek Bevan, one of Wales’ greatest referees, once telling me that New Zealand against South Africa is the toughest game you will take charge of – and he wasn’t wrong. It is a clash of two Goliaths, two huge rugby countries and rugby cultures.”

    Of the 2013 All Blacks versus Springboks Test in Johannesburg when the All Blacks broke a 16 year drought at Ellis Park, Owens said: ‘It’s a match that has been talked of as one of the greatest games of rugby played, with many pundits, coaches and players past and present even calling it the game of the century. To have played a part in that, a small part, is something I will always cherish and never forget.’

    The Springboks and All Blacks in this year’s Rugby Championship will meet for the 100th time in a Test match.

    Visit Rugby Pass for Owens’s comments on each selection



    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years