related stories
John Smit Interview: Saracens' new stampeding Springbok talks to Sport360°England Owen Farrell is just like Jonny Wilkinson
score centre
Rugby FixturesRugby ResultsTeam Guides

World Cup winner John Smit believes his Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell has the ability, and more importantly the temperament, to become one of the world’s best.

Farrell has been a revelation for England since being handed his debut by Stuart Lancaster at the start of this season’s Six Nations, scoring 40 points in four games so far. Against Wales he has also took the added responsibility of a move from inside-centre to fly-half in his stride and should retain the role of playmaker for England’s final game against Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Since arriving at Saracens following last year’s World Cup, Smit has seen Farrell’s development up close and has been impressed with his ability to handle pressure – something the former South Africa captain thinks he learnt from his dad, former cross-code international, Andy Farrell.

“These youngsters that are coming through are really at a different level professionally, they do put a lot of work in and I think with guys like Owen Farrell who is coming through for England, especially as a pivot player at 10 and 12 and 13, he’s got an amazing head on his shoulders,” Smit told Sport360°.

“You can see he’s picked up that composure from watching his father growing up, seeing how to have a competitive edge and a cool mind at the same time. I would say that is probably his biggest strength and it helps he can kick the ball over the posts every time he puts his head down.

He added: “(He’s a) strong guy, big as well, runs well, takes the ball up flat, can play deep, kicks the ball amazingly – I’m delighted he’s a Saracen.”

Smit put his retirement on hold to move to north London with Saracens, and while he knew to expect a high level of rugby having played for a season in France for Clermon Auvergne after the 2007 World Cup, he has been pleasantly surprised by the lack of a South African clique at the Welford Road club.

The hooker was aware of the heavy influence of his homeland on his new club’s dressing room, and while that has helped him settle, he was delighted to find players from many different nationalities mixing happily. “Having 12 guys from South Africa, and one who has now left Deon Carsters, one of my big mates from back home was a big part of me coming, he gave me an idea of what to expect and that certainly has made life a lot easier.

“I expected to arrive into a club where there were a group of South Africans doing their own thing but it’s surprisingly not like that at all you just get a big group of guys from all over.

“The other night I think we counted, I think we’ve got about 10 different nationalities in the team yet we still have six England internationals in the side which is a really amazing feat for the club.”