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Smith happy to be back in Boks fold

Returning flanker Juan Smith believes South Africa can only improve their Tri-Nations fortunes when they come up against New Zealand in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Cheetahs captain has not played for the Springboks for almost a year after injury and a family bereavement took its toll but he is all set to return for the world champions as they try to arrest their recent slide that has seen them lose their opening three matches of the competition, twice to the All Blacks and once to Australia.

"After our recent failures, we have a lot of pride to play for and playing in front of your home crowd is an advantage, so it can only get better," said Smith.

Smith's introduction was one of seven changes to the team made by coach Peter de Villiers, who is under pressure to turn around the fortunes of the team.

Scrum-half Francois Hougaard and lock Flip van der Merwe have been handed their first Test starts, while JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Jannie du Plessis also return.

And Smith said he felt right at home after being re-united with his international team-mates.

He continued: "I felt comfortable coming back on Monday night because it's a team that's been playing together since Jake White's days.

"We've been playing together for such a long time that we know each other and I feel at home."

Asked whether the Springboks may struggle to gel with so many new faces in place, he responded: "There are a lot of new faces in the backline, but some familiar ones up front.

"Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies and I have played as a combination at this level for the past three or four years, so the fact that I've missed the first seven Tests shouldn't make a difference."

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