DURBAN - All Blacks coach Graham Henry has showered praise on South African prop John Smit, who will become the most capped captain in test rugby history when the teams square off in Durban this weekend.

Smit will lead the Springboks for the 60th time, surpassing the previous record shared by former England centre Will Carling and former Australian halfback George Gregan.

Henry, the world's most experienced test coach, described this week's landmark as "huge".

He said Smit, who has shifted from hooker to prop, had enjoyed a decorated career with the Springboks and was a highly respected figure in the rugby world.

"He's a very successful international captain and has won a World Cup (in 2007) which we are very green about," he said.

"He's a very fine player, he's highly respected by his players and he's a good bloke. He's a top man, so I can understand why he's (captained) 60 test matches and I can understand why the Springboks follow him. He's a top person."

Smit, 31, became the 50th man to lead his country in 2004 and has also gone on to compile 85 tests, the most by a South African forward.

He was keen to brush aside plaudits today, saying the challenge of a more galvanised All Blacks team on Sunday morning (NZT) was occupying his mind.

"They'll be far better prepared. They are coming to a venue they are familiar with, they've become used to the time difference and have had a week to analyse what went wrong in Bloemfontein," he said, referring to the Springboks' 28-19 last weekend.

"It would be foolish to think they will bring the same level of intensity they did there. It'll be significantly more, and they'll be far better equipped for the challenge."

Smit will lead his country against New Zealand for the 10th time, which falls short of three Australians. Former Nick Farr-Jones captained against the All Blacks 13 times while Gregan and former lock John Eales did so 11 times each.

Hooker Sean Fitzpatrick is the most capped All Blacks captain with 51 tests at the helm, followed by current leader Richie McCaw on 34.


59: John Smit (South Afica 2003-09), Will Carling (England, 1988-96), George Gregan (Australia, 2001-07)
57: Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland/Lions 2002-09)
55: John Eales (Australia 1996-2001)
51: Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand, 1992-97)

Other leading New Zealanders:
34: Richie McCaw 2004-09
30: Wilson Whineray 1958-65
23: Reuben Thorne 2002-07
22: Taine Randell 1998-2002
21: Tana Umaga 2004-05