At the start of last year, the World Cup-winning flanker had decided to call it quits after re-injuring his achilles during a Super Rugby pre-season game for the Cheetahs following a two-year absence stemming from the same affliction.
However, a successful operation convinced him to have one last crack and after gaining a trial with French giants Toulon, impressed to such an extent that he gained a contract.
Smith’s class was promptly re-inforced and became too attractive for national coach Heyneke Meyer to ignore.
“We have a couple of options at blindside flank, but we’ve decided that this will be a great opportunity to give Juan a chance,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Apart from experience and leadership, Juan is a superb ball-carrier and also brilliant at the back of the lineouts, where we missed Willem Alberts last week. Our lineouts are an important attacking platform and we need to improve this week – I’m sure Juan will add another dimension.”
The veteran is a like-for-like replacement for the sidelined Willem Alberts – a traditional blindside ball-carrier who also provides an extra option in the line-out.
In two other changes from last weekend’s nervy 13-6 win at Loftus, Meyer also recalled the experienced Gurthro Steenkamp to replace Beast Mtawarira at loosehead while the robust Eben Etzebeth returns to his beloved No 4 jersey in place of Bakkies Botha.
The 22-year-old forms a burgeoning if infant second row combination with hard-working Lood de Jager.
Springboks: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers (capt), Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Juan Smith, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Bench: Adriaan Strauss, Beast Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Bakkies Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo.