Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: Captain in the Cauldron: The John Smit Story by John Smit and Mike Greenaway

I first became really interested in rugby around 1996/1997 at the age of twelve. One of my Dad's client's had a corporate box at Kings Park and we used to go down to watch the Sharks play virtually every home game. It was also during this period that a young man by the name of John Smit started playing for the Sharks. I watched firsthand while John went from an unknown to the longest serving Springbok captain in history and having the chance to read his autobiography I jumped at it.

First things first; Smit has written this book at the right time, when his career is starting to wind down. There has been a recent trend for sports biographies to come out earlier, (ala Kevin Pieterson) to take advantage of a high profile event (ala England winning the Ashes) and I find this generally lowers the quality as the sport star concerned isn't at the right maturity level and it can degenerate into a mudsling/self praise exercise. No such problems exist here. John strikes the right balance between respecting his peers and not shying away from being blunt when necessary. His takes on Luke Watson and Kevin Putt are good examples of this and I was both impressed and surprised at how frank he was about the politics in Springbok rugby considering he is still playing. Like most autobiographies the story follows John from childhood up until recent times, though the trap of focusing too much on the early days is avoided and the meat of this book deals with the rugby period of his life as it should.

My only criticism would be that there are some areas I would have liked to have seen dealt with that are strangely overlooked, like Smit's feeling on Jake White being pushed out of the Springbok coaching setup after the world cup triumph.

Overall Smit's book is clear and concise and gives an in depth look into the springbok setup. I highly recommend it to supporters of the man himself or Springbok rugby in general. 8.75/10 cauldron


  1. what time period was the book set?

  2. Most of the book is set in the mid 90's to 2000's.