JOHN SMIT is thrilled by the progress that his former Saracens team-mate and fellow hooker Jamie George has made in recent years.
George, who is one of four Sarries players to have been named in the British and Irish Lions pack for this morning’s showdown against the New Zealand Maoris and is now the favourite to get the number two jersey in the Test team, was still trying to establish himself when South Africa’s World Cup winning captain Smit was at the club between 2011-13.
Part of Smit’s brief while he was with Saracens was to help bring through young players, and he has delighted to have seen George develop into one of Europe’s leading hookers.
“I couldn’t have been prouder watching Jamie and all he’s achieved for Saracens, England and the Lions,” he said. “Ed Griffiths [former chief executive] wanted me to be a mentor for the younger hookers, but I didn’t know just how much talent he had until I arrived.
“He was so hungry for knowledge and so appreciative of all the time he spent learning. I was only a small part of his development but I loved every minute of it.”
Although Sarries’ transformation into one of Europe’s top sides was well under way when Smit was at the club, they have developed even further since he moved on and have now won the European Champions Cup for the past two years.
“To win back-to-back European titles is pretty special and Saracens is a special club,” he added. “To have won the Premiership three years in a row and to have done a double double would have been great, but you have to say well done to the Exeter Chiefs. It’s something that requires a huge effort.
“Why are Saracens special? When I was there everyone liked what we were doing, liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company on and off the pitch. It’s probably the only true rugby family I’ve been part of and that’s a key point of difference.”
Smit is one of a number of former Saracens stars, along with the likes of Matt Stevens, David Strettle, Neil de Kock and Danny Grewcock, who will be in attendance at Allianz Park on June 30 for the Worldwide Currencies Cup match in aid of Restart Rugby and the #LiftTheWeight mental health awareness campaign.
The match kicks off the Sevens and the City sports and music festival at the ground – an event which is the brainchild of Strettle and Stevens.
For tickets go to https://sevensandthecity.com/