Savannah Connacher

'200km challenge is hardest thing I've ever done!'

Former Springbok captain JOHN SMIT tells about taking part in the BrightRock Battle of the Sports challenge.

Battle of the Sports is about raising awareness and money to provide frontline health workers with much-needed personal protection equipment (PPE). 

To achieve this, we organised a battle between a team of three rugby players, cricketers, soccer players and runners to see who could complete the 200km in the fastest time.

The route is in a salt pan called Verneukpan in the Northern Cape.


The rugby team consisted of myself, Schalk Brits and Hanyani Shimange, with Butch James as our manager. We were led by expert adventure athlete Erik Vermeulen. 

We were the first team to do the challenge, which made us the guinea pigs!

We started the race at 12pm on Sunday and got home on Thursday evening.

There was no cellphone signal, so we were basically dead to the world for a couple of days. That’s where Butch came in, as he checked in on us for an hour or two a day and passed on messages from family and friends. 

It isn’t as easy as just completing the 200km. We had to pull a 250kg crate worth of supplies, like water, food and cooking equipment. Two of us had to pull it and the other person had to steer it from the back.

That crate was definitely designed by an evil person. It was such a mission to toe!

Day two was an absolute nightmare because the wheels got several punctures. We had to sit in blistering heat and figure out how to change the tyres.

We didn’t have a tent or anything fancy. We literally slept under the incredible stars with a little blow-up mattress and a sleeping bag. It was freezing at night – it got to about zero degrees!

It's safe to say that the 200km challenge is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The only thing that got me through it was having Schalk and Hanyani with me.

We all had dark moments but when things get tough, rugby players tend to get light-hearted about the situation.


I had to remind myself that the world has much bigger problems. You start to feel less sorry for yourself when you think about the severity of what's going on. 

I don’t think fun played a massive part in the challenge, but I’m grateful to have made memories with two great friends that we can speak about for years.

What we did is not something many people will ever be able to experience. 

Take part in the 200km challenge or make a donation