John Smit retains Springboks captaincy for World Cup

Victor Matfield and John Smit
Smit (right) and Matfield are South Africa's most experienced players

South Africa have confirmed John Smit as captain for the 2011 season, which includes their World Cup defence.

There had been speculation that the hooker could be replaced by Victor Matfield or Bismarck du Plessis.

But Bulls captain Matfield, who has skippered the Springboks 15 times in Smit's absence, continues as vice-captain.

Smit, 33, has led South Africa in 76 of his 102 international appearances since making his debut in 2000.

He was given the job full-time by former coach Jake White in early 2004 and lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy in Paris in 2007 as South Africa won the World Cup for a second time.

Matfield, who will be 34 on 11 May, is the most capped Springbok, with 105 Tests to his name.

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers said: "John and Victor have so much experience and we're lucky to be able to name them as captain and vice-captain."

"To have both still available in a rugby World Cup year is a great boost," he added after a 51-man provisional World Cup squad completed the first in a series of team planning sessions.

"History has shown that those teams who do well at World Cups have experience and outstanding leadership and we've learnt that you throw away that experience at your peril."

Smit said in a statement: "The responsibility comes with a great deal of pressure and expectation but it never loses the thrill or the sense of privilege that comes with it."

The 2011 World Cup in New Zealand begins on 9 September when the All Blacks play Tonga in Auckland.

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