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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 February, 2003, 09:48 GMT

Smith ready for challenge
Graeme Smith
Smith is a forceful opening bat
Batsman Graeme Smith has vowed to seize his opportunity after being drafted into South Africa's squad as a replacement for injured Jonty Rhodes.

The Western Province opener was unlucky to miss out on a place in the original 15-man squad after impressing in both Test and one-day cricket since making his international debut last year.

There was speculation that he had fallen victim to the need to fit five non-white players into the squad.

Smith was called up by the selectors, however, after Rhodes suffered a broken hand while fielding in the game against Kenya.

"The disappointment I went through after being left out of the World Cup squad is the toughest thing I've been through in my life.

Jonty is a special man and no one can even expect to replace a man like him
Graeme Smith

"I learned so much from it. About myself, about my cricket, about what I wanted to achieve," said Smith.

"Also what amazed me was the amount of support I got from being left out of the squad. I never realised so many people supported me, including the media.

"This was not an opportunity I expected. Many people told me it would come but I never thought it would."

Smith is rated the top young batsman in South Africa and scored a double century against Bangladesh in only his third Test appearance.

He has scored almost 750 runs in 19 one-day internationals at an average of 41.27.

The 22-year-old has yet to register a one-day century but was run out for 99 against Sri Lanka last November.

Smith paid tribute to Rhodes' efforts on behalf of the national team since his debut more than a decade ago.

Graeme Smith

But he revealed that he had a premonition something had happened during the Kenya game before he heard the news of the injury.

"Funnily enough, I was watching a movie with a couple of my mates during the Kenyan game and I walked out of the cinema and I suddenly had this sick feeling that something had gone wrong.

"I got to my car and the first thing I heard on the radio was that Jonty had broken his hand."

Rhodes said goodbye to his teammates at a net session in Johannesburg on Friday.

"I'm not a good watcher and I'd probably be more annoying to the guys if I hung around," he commented.

Links to more South Africa stories


South African all-rounder Jonty Rhodes
"I really see my career as a blessing"

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